CARY — Cherif Dieye put the icing on the cake of his 21st birthday on Sunday at WakeMed Soccer Park.
The Louisville junior midfielder scored the only goal of the match to help No. 10 Louisville beat No. 4 North Carolina, 1-0, and win the program’s first ACC Championship.
In the 29th minute, Cardinals' (11-4-3, 4-2-2 ACC) senior forward Tate Schmitt collected a loose ball and placed a no-look pass in space. Dieye met the ball and fired a shot under sophomore defender John Nelson, who slid for the block attempt.
Redshirt senior goalkeeper James Pyle looked frozen and the Tar Heels (14-3-1, 6-1 ACC), who are tied as the top defense in the nation by goals allowed, allowed their eighth goal of the year.
“I just scored the game winner, but my teammates won the whole game,” Dieye said. “Because they defended very well, and they did what they had to do. It is so special. I couldn’t ask for a better gift for a 21st birthday.”
UNC head coach Carlos Somoano, who applauded his team’s effort after the match, said his only regret was his club’s hesitation in the opening half.
North Carolina started the match with a conservative approach on offense with only three shot attempts and one on goal in the first 45 minutes. But after it headed to the locker room scoreless during the intermission, the team came out with a stronger attack in the second half.
“(We) could’ve been a little more aggressive from the get-go,” Somoano said. “I feel like we were a little hesitant in trying to find our way and trying to feel the game out a little bit too hard.”
Junior midfielder Mauricio Pineda, senior forward Nils Bruening, junior forward Jack Skahan and redshirt junior forward Jelani Pieters — who scored the game-winning goal in the ACC semifinal match against Duke — all attempted shots in the second half.