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Thursday January 20th

'Jack's back': Jack Skahan's goal lifts No. 3 UNC men's soccer over UNCW

<p>Midfielder Jack Skahan (8) competes for the ball against UNC-W Ben Fisher (11) during the men's soccer game on Tuesday, Oct. 2 2018 at WakeMed Soccer Park. Skahan scored the only goal of the game, for a final score of 1-0.</p>
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Midfielder Jack Skahan (8) competes for the ball against UNC-W Ben Fisher (11) during the men's soccer game on Tuesday, Oct. 2 2018 at WakeMed Soccer Park. Skahan scored the only goal of the game, for a final score of 1-0.

CARY The No. 3 North Carolina men’s soccer team passed the ball back and forth across its back line, evading the No. 12 UNCW offense. 

Sophomore Raul Aguilera took a few steps before sending the ball up the field to Jelani Pieters’ feet. The junior trapped the ball, analyzing the scene inside the 18-yard line. Pieters lofted the ball over the box as Jack Skahan made a hard run from the left side of the field, with only one Seahawk defender tailing him. 

A swift kick from the junior midfielder sent the ball skipping across the green field, slipping through the goalie’s hands into the bottom left corner. Skahan patted his chest twice before high-fiving teammate Jeremy Kelly as the rest of the Tar Heels crowded around them. 

It was his first goal of the season. 

“Gio ran through and took a defender with him, and left me in the middle to get the ball,” Skahan said. “I just touched it, shot it, and I was honestly pretty lucky it went in.”

Despite an uncharacteristically rough night for UNC, the Tar Heels (8-1, 3-0 ACC) slipped past the Seahawks (7-2-1, 2-0-1 CAA) with a 1-0 victory thanks to Skahan’s goal in the 34th minute — five minutes after he stepped onto the field. 

“We didn’t defend well, we weren’t on the front foot," head coach Carlos Somoano said. "We were not aggressive and we looked fatigued. We were getting beat on the dribble. We lost our duals, but we never gave up.”

The defense held strong, extending the team’s shutout streak to four games. However, a sluggish offense prevented the Tar Heels from furthering their lead. 

“It probably wasn’t the best game we played, but to beat Wilmington and to get a shutout is a good thing,” Skahan said. “They’re a good team. We didn’t play our best.”

Despite a long night for the team, one player stood out amongst the rest — Skahan. 

After a hard hit in the first half of the Labor Day game against Jacksonville on Sept. 3, Skahan has not touched the field since. It was later learned he had suffered a knee injury during that game. After three weeks and four days since last touching the field, Skahan played 32 minutes against Clemson on Friday night. 

“Jack’s back,” Somoano said. “'Jack-in-a-box' scored a goal.” 

His absence had been painfully noticeable for the Tar Heels. During last week’s 2-0 win over Clemson, Skahan brought an aggressive touch to the team's otherwise lackluster play, awakening the offense. Tuesday night, his goal extended the team’s winning streak to seven games. 

“He’s a massive player for us,” Kelly said. “Whatever we can get helps, and he knows that. We did well without him, but having him back is a big boost.” 

Against the Seahawks, Skahan played a total of 44 minutes, and started the second half.

“I was lucky to have the surgery I had and to be able to get back,” Skahan said. “I just wanted to play this year, and luckily, I have the trainers to thank for being able to do that. It feels good.”

Despite the rough play from the entire team, Skahan’s presence on the field didn’t go unnoticed under Somoano’s watchful eye. 

“He’s a good player,” Somoano said. “He’s fast and he’s aggressive. We brought him in on the left side to be able to cut the ball inside and do what he did.”

Even recovering from an injury, his fresh legs made him an asset for the Tar Heels. 

“He’s had a couple weeks off so his legs are fresh,” Somoano said. “He doesn’t quite have the stamina, but you know, his legs are fresh. That also helps to have somebody that hasn’t worn their legs down.”

“It’s good to have Jack back.”

@mwc13_3

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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