CARY — When Indiana defender A.J. Palazzolo scored a header on a free kick from his teammate to give the Hoosiers the only goal of the match in the 88th minute, North Carolina senior defender Alex Comsia had a feeling of déjà vu.
The Tar Heels fell to the Hoosiers, 1-0, on Sunday, in their first home game of the season at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary. UNC last played Indiana in December of 2017 in an NCAA semifinal match, where it also lost by the same score.
Neither side could find the back of the net for the majority of the game. North Carolina had 11 shots, compared to three by Indiana. The Tar Heels did a good job of denying the Hoosiers opportunities before they could put shots on frame.
“I thought we did well defensively, except for that one set piece,” Comsia said after the loss. “Ultimately it just came down to that, just like last year.”
Junior midfielder Mauricio Pineda, who attempted two shots in the contest, said that though UNC controlled the game for the majority of 90 minutes, losing focus on one Indiana possession cost the team a win.
“Set pieces, as you can probably tell everywhere in soccer now, they’re huge,” Pineda said. “We fell asleep on one, and that cost us the game.”
The Tar Heels were aggressive from the opening minutes of the match. Senior midfielder Nils Bruening and junior midfielder Jack Skahan both had shot attempts blocked in the eighth minute. Just seconds after Skahan’s initial attempt was blocked, he fired another shot on goal that was saved by Indiana’s goalkeeper.
North Carolina took six more shots in the first half alone. Junior forward Jelani Pieters, sophomore defender John Nelson, sophomore forward Giovanni Montesdeoca, Bruening and Pineda all had one or more attempts.
In the second half, the Tar Heels took two more shots, but the result was the same, just as it was in the 2017 College Cup. As the game wore on, the Hoosiers gained confidence and finally secured the game-winning goal in the 88th minute.
Though Comsia had flashbacks to the Final Four loss against Indiana after the match, he said that revenge wasn’t something that was discussed in preparation for Sunday.
“We’re motivated by every single game,” Comsia said. “We didn’t consider it, honestly. We have guys that are motivated to just compete every day.”
Head coach Carlos Somoano was frustrated with the way his team defended the set piece that cost it the match, but had no complaints with the effort of his players.
“I don’t have any expectations except that they put their best effort out there,” Somoano said. “They put their best effort out there to try and score a goal. Indiana (is) defensively very solid.
“I do expect that we defend a set piece better than that.”
Unlike last year, this will not be the last game UNC plays. The Tar Heels have ample time to recover and regroup with the entire season in front of them.
North Carolina will have its first opportunity to regain confidence when it travels to Williamsburg, Va. to take on William & Mary on Friday at 7 p.m.
“We’ve got to reflect,” Somoano said. “(The game) kind of shocked us there in the last couple of minutes, especially with the way the game went. It seemed to be a little bit more in our favor.”
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