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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC men's soccer wears out UNC-Wilmington in 1-0 win

The men's soccer team celebrates after midfielder Nico Melo (31) scored the game winning goal against UNCW on Tuesday night.
The men's soccer team celebrates after midfielder Nico Melo (31) scored the game winning goal against UNCW on Tuesday night.

Much of the match looked the same.

No. 4 North Carolina would pressure No. 20 UNC-Wilmington, get a shot, and then the attack would fizzle out. But the constant pressure proved to be too much for the Seahawks.

Redshirt senior Nico Melo notched a goal in the 68th minute to lift the Tar Heels (8-1-1, 3-0-1 ACC) to a 1-0 victory over the Seahawks (6-2-1).

Many expected a high-scoring affair, since UNC and UNC-W averaged at least two goals per game this season. But a shootout was not to be.

It was a chess match in the first half. UNC dominated possession but couldn't seem to put the ball in the back of the net. Time and time again, North Carolina worked the ball through the middle of field and found a shot — but not a goal.

“It’s very frustrating, but grinding it out is important," said junior forward Zach Wright. "Because what if they get one chance and happen to put it away, like ETSU

“As long as we keep getting chances like that, it means we’re down at their end and they’re not down at our end.”

Only one of these shots was on target, however, and the chances were not as dangerous as the Tar Heels might have hoped. The game was tied 0-0 at halftime, with UNC leading the shot count 7-1.

The second half highlighted UNC’s possession of the ball. More and more chances came for the Tar Heels, and the game finally broke.

A strong attack by Wright forced a throw-in for North Carolina in a good attack position. The throw came to forward Tucker Hume on the left of the goal, and he settled to set a nice pass to Wright — who fired a shot that was saved by the Seahawk goalkeeper.

The ball fell to UNC-W defender Brayden Smith, who attempted to clear but placed it at the feet of Melo. The midfielder kept his head and smacked the ball for his first goal of the season, giving the Tar Heels a crucial lead.

“The goalie had an unbelievable save.” said Melo. “As that was happening, defenders kind of freak out because they’re trying to get the ball away … It comes to me and I decided to hit it first time.”

Wright was his usual high-energy self, and it is no surprise when he is involved in UNC’s scoring plays.

“Zach’s is our resident beast on the field,” said head coach Carlos Somoano.

“He’s an animal. He’s got a competitive streak. He fights for loose balls, he picks up loose balls, he battles, and he’s got a lot of intangible qualities.”

The play from Wright and Melo extended North Carolina's unbeaten streak to five through a tough stretch of its season. But even as the competition stiffens, there's no reason not to expect more of the same.

@YonaDagalosi

sports@dailytarheel.com

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