The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday March 28th

North Carolina men's soccer grinds through inconsistency for 1-0 win over UNCW

Center defender John Nelson (5) fights for the ball against midfielder Tim Townsend (18) during Saturday night's game against Pittsburgh at Koskinen Stadium.
Buy Photos Center defender John Nelson (5) fights for the ball against midfielder Tim Townsend (18) during Saturday night's game against Pittsburgh at Koskinen Stadium.

Despite inconsistent play, the No. 3 North Carolina men's soccer team scraped out a 1-0 win over an attacking No. 12 UNCW team on Tuesday night. 

What happened?

The first half was a stalemate, as both teams played stingy defense. There were flashes of offensive dominance from each side as the Tar Heels (8-1-0) peppered the goal in the 14th and 15th minutes, and UNCW (7-2-1) had a free kick saved by James Pyle in the 25th minute. 

28:09 into the half, Jack Skahan entered the game. Just five minutes later, the midfielder, in his second appearance back from injury, found himself a few yards in front of the goal. Corralling a cross from the right side, he fought off a defender, creating just enough space to get a shot off. He slid it low and to the left to give UNC the lead. 

In less than 20 minutes of play in the second half, the teams combined for eight fouls and a yellow card, assessed to Wilmington’s Jamil Gracia for a tackle on Jelani Peiters. 

With just under 11 minutes to go, back-to-back corner kicks by Wilmington put UNC within inches of danger as the ball was batted back and forth in front of the goal, but the Seahawks were unable to capitalize on the opportunity.

With less than 30 seconds to go the Seahawks had one last chance to equalize as the ball was headed around the Tar Heel box. A foul negated the chance however, and Pyle took his time gathering the ball to let the clock run out.

Who stood out?

Despite Wilmington finding holes in the midfield, the defensive line stood strong for the Tar Heels. The defense has gone 473 minutes without allowing a goal. Milo Gervanian, a first year midfielder, headed away a ball on the goal line after it got behind Pyle, staving off what looked to be a certain goal for Wilmington in the closing minutes of the second half.

Skahan, in his second game back from injury, scored the deciding goal. Coach Carlos Somoano credited Skahan’s fresh legs for giving the Tar Heels some spark on an otherwise sluggish night in Cary.

When was it decided?

Despite the 1-0 lead before the break, the Tar Heels never looked fully comfortable in the second half as the potent Wilmington offense was able to get close chances on goal. It wasn’t until the final seconds, after a foul on UNCW, that Pyle had a chance to boot the ball away to end the game. 

Why does it matter?

The Tar Heels will alternate between conference and non-conference games over the next few weeks, but with just six games remaining on the slate, picking up a top-15 win was important to build to their resume as they approach the post season.

More than that, Somoano highlighted the team’s ability to grind out a win despite inconsistent play. Finding a way to win in an otherwise sloppy game could give the Tar Heels a boost.

Where do they play next?

The Tar Heels get back into conference play to test their undefeated ACC record against No. 19 Virginia Tech on Oct. 6. The 7 p.m. game will be a home contest for UNC contested at Koskinen Stadium in Durham.

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