An injury to Pyle, who hasn’t played since Aug. 27 against Rutgers, opened the door for Smir. After Romig started three games – one of which was the Tar Heels' lone loss on the season to UNC Wilmington – Smir got his chance. In his six starts since then, he hasn’t disappointed.
In UNC’s 1-0 win against rival N.C. State Friday night at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, Smir proved his importance to his team and came up with three crucial saves in the final 10 minutes of the victory after being untested for the greater part of the match.
Having earned his second clean sheet in as many games, Smir feels he is adjusting well to the college game, and his unexpected role as starting goalkeeper.
“After tonight, it feels good,” he said. “To get a second shutout, that’s really what we need to strive for.”
Against the Wolfpack, anything but a shutout wouldn’t have sufficed. Despite UNC spending the majority of the game with possession in the attacking third, the Tar Heels only had a single goal to show for their offensive prowess.
And while N.C. State didn’t look threatening for the greater part of the match, it came alive down the stretch, perhaps realizing that despite its constant defending throughout the night, only a single moment of offensive brilliance was needed to turn the game around.
Smir didn’t allow that to happen, however.
After saving the first two shots he faced all night in a 11-second span during the 80th minute, his final save of the game, an 84th-minute stop of N.C. State’s Manny Perez’s shot, was his best.
With several bodies between him and Perez, Smir still managed to keep his eyes on the hard-
hit, low to the ground effort, and made sure he got some part of his body on it.
“I think it came of my hands, my knee,” he said with a hint of doubt. “I’m not really sure where. It just kind of hit me.”
Head coach Carlos Somoano, who picked up his 100th career win on Friday, has been impressed with the way his young goalkeeper has performed
“He’s a very talented goalkeeper,” Somoano said. “Tonight he made the plays, because he’s focused, and he’s putting the effort in and he’s putting the work in.”
Somoano hasn’t ruled out the possibility of Pyle returning from his injury at some point this season, but Smir is the 10-1 Tar Heels’ man at the moment.
In his seven games this season – six of which have been starts – Smir has recorded 13 saves, allowed just 0.80 goals per game and given up multiple goals just once.
“I’ve gotten a great opportunity like Cam said, and just glad to be here and glad to take it,” he said.
What does Lindley think about the first-year who’s unexpectedly been forced into action?
“We need him to win a win a national championship,” he said.
That’s quite the ascent in importance for a guy who thought he’d redshirt his first year at the college level.