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Wednesday January 26th

UNC men's soccer downs Duke for Coastal Division title thanks to goal from Skahan

UNC Midfielder Jack Skahan (8) misses a header against Winthrop on Tuesday Oct. 16 at WakeMed Soccer Park. He had a hat trick during the game.
Buy Photos UNC Midfielder Jack Skahan (8) misses a header against Winthrop on Tuesday Oct. 16 at WakeMed Soccer Park. He had a hat trick during the game.

The No. 5 North Carolina men's soccer team had the chance to clinch an outright ACC Coastal Division Tuesday night on the field where it had played nearly half of its home games this season.

But to do it, they’d have to beat the team whose actual home field it was. 

"When they fill it up like that with a bunch of Duke fans, it feels a little bit different," junior forward Jack Skahan said.

At Koskinen Stadium in Durham, UNC (12-2-1, 6-1-0 ACC) took on No. 14 Duke (9-5-1, 4-3-0 ACC) at a site both teams are plenty familiar with. The Tar Heels entered the game with a 3-0 record at Koskinen this year, as it has served as one of their rotating home fields. Duke, trailing UNC by only three points in the Coastal standings, needed a win to keep its division winning dreams alive in Durham.

UNC took down the Blue Devils, 1-0, to pick up its fourth straight Coastal Division championship.

"It's definitely a culture, to do it four years in a row ... play by play, game by game, that's the result of it," senior defender and team captain Alex Comsia said.

Neither team seemed at home for the majority of the first half.

North Carolina forward Jelani Pieters registered the first shot for UNC in the 37th minute, opening up a flurry of activity from both sides over the last nine minutes of the period. 

"I think the game takes ebbs and flows and you gotta feel some things out at the beginning of the game," head coach Carlos Somoano said.

By the break, UNC had felt it out, ripping off four shots. Duke added its second on a header that was saved by a diving goalie James Pyle, who picked up another clean sheet. Comsia had high praise for his keeper.

"Sometimes he just comes up with the saves and it's like, 'you are not supposed to save that,'" Comsia said.

North Carolina’s defense ranked No. 2 in the nation in goals per game allowed entering the contest, while Duke’s offense was No. 18 in goals per game. Through 45 minutes, these two units canceled each other out as Duke got dangerous opportunities, but UNC mostly prevented the team from converting them into shots. Of the Blue Devil’s two first half shots, both were on frame.

After a scoreless first period, Jack Skahan ignited the Tar Heel offense as he gathered a misplayed ball at the top of the box and chipped it over the head of the charging Duke goalkeeper Will Pulisic 11 minutes into the second half. 

"I’m not even kidding when I say one in 10 times I’ll chip it like that and it'll go in," Skahan said.

It was Skahan’s fifth goal in his last three games, continuing a hot streak. Like the game-winning goal, he didn't take much credit for the stretch of success.

"When you have really good teammates, you get into spots and kind of tend to score," Skahan said. "It’s not like I’m doing everything. They’re just giving me the ball where I can score. We have a lot of good teammates that are a lot better than me to be honest."

Both teams became more animated in a chippy final half hour. First-year Julius Momkus got a yellow card for the Tar Heels, while a Duke trainer was assessed a yellow in the final 10 minutes after what appeared to be an exchange of words with the referee.

In the final two minutes, Duke was able to put pressure on the Tar Heels as the squad sought the equalizer, while UNC drew back to pack the box. 

With under 10 seconds remaining, UNC's defense cleared the ball for the final time, securing the win and another division championship. 

"It feel really good," Skahan said. "To win the Coastal feels good, but to win it against Duke feels really good. At Duke feels even better. In the least arrogant way possible, since I’ve been here, not because of me, but since I've been here we haven’t not won it in the regular season. What we haven’t won is the ACC Tournament, so we just have to focus on Virginia Friday and the ACC Tournament."

@James_Tatter | @DTHSports

sports@dailytarheel.com

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