The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday August 12th

UNC men's soccer ends season with penalty-kick loss to Stanford in NCAA semifinals

With a berth in the national championship on the line, the North Carolina men’s soccer team fell to Stanford after 10 rounds penalty kicks. With UNC (14-4-3) needing a make to continue into an 11th round, Alex Comsia’s shot sailed over the goal to give Stanford (15-3-4) a chance to repeat as national champions.

What happened?

Stanford controlled possession through the midfield for the better part of the game and had several scoring opportunities, but the Cardinal was never able to get behind the vaunted North Carolina backline. Stanford came into the game averaging over 15 shots per game and UNC goalkeeper James Pyle was more than ready. Pyle had six saves and was very active going off of his line to send crosses out the box.

North Carolina’s best chance came in the 81st minute, when a strike from junior Alan Winn deflected off of a Stanford defender but still made its way on goal. Although Stanford goalkeeper Andrew Epstein initially dove to his left, he was able to make an incredible kick save with his momentum carrying him in the wrong direction.

As the game headed to overtime, Stanford continued to force the issue offensively, getting several corner kick opportunities but the Tar Heels cleared them all to send the game into penalty kicks.

In the penalty kick shootout, Stanford shot first, meaning that North Carolina would have to answer every Stanford make with a make of its own. Nine times in a row the Tar Heels were able to beat Epstein, but they needed a tenth.

Who stood out?

Senior captain Colton Storm was the leader behind a UNC defense that bended several times but never broke. Storm was responsible for keeping Cardinal leading scorer Foster Langsdorf in check and he more than held own. Stanford continued to work the left to get around Storm but he was always there with a clearance.

Goalkeeper James Pyle played a stellar game in regulation. As Stanford sent balls into the box, he confidently leaped over the forwards to punch the ball out of harm’s way. In penalty kicks, he had a beat on the Stanford shots and guessed right on several of them, but was unable to stop any of them from getting behind him.

When was it decided?

With the Tar Heels needing another successful penalty kick to extend the match, Coach Carlos Somoano called on Comsia. It was certainly a tough, pressure-packed situation for the sophomore defender, but he didn’t do the one thing every penalty kick shooter has to do: Force the goalkeeper to make a save. Epstein didn’t have to do anything as Comsia’s shot sailed over the crossbar to give Stanford the win.

Why does it matter?

It’s a heartbreaking loss for the Tar Heels. After the team found its toughness and composure in the early rounds of the NCAA tournament, it looked more than capable of winning a national title. Given the valiant effort that UNC gave against a very good Stanford team, it’s a crushing defeat for a side that accomplished so much this season but wasn’t able to reach its ultimate goal.

When do they play next?

North Carolina’s season is over. The Tar Heels will return to action in August of 2017.

@david_adler94

sports@dailytarheel.com

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