CARY — Time stood still as the final whistle blew.
Alex Comsia placed his head in his hands, bending over before sitting down inside of the box. Jelani Pieters and Nils Bruening froze on the field, slowly registering what was happening around them. As the James Madison players rushed the field, a look of shock and heartbreak spread across North Carolina’s faces.
Just like that, it was all over.
The No. 5 seed North Carolina men’s soccer team fell, 2-1, to JMU during the NCAA Tournament second-round matchup on Sunday night. This premature loss marks the first time all season that the Tar Heels surrendered more than one goal and the first time the team scored in a game and lost. It was also the first time under head coach Carlos Somoano’s leadership that the squad lost during its opening game in the NCAA Tournament.
“I just want to apologize to all of the Carolina soccer fans that we couldn’t get the job done,” Somoano said. “Wish we could’ve done better.”
It was a slow start for the Tar Heels. The team came out flat footed, not registering its first shot until the 12th minute. Senior midfielder Bruening made a run through the box, but his shot went wide. By that time, JMU had already shot three times. The Dukes shot three more times before finding the back of the net in the 27th minute.
JMU’s early advantage seemed to light a fire under the Tar Heels. Five minutes later, sophomore forward Giovanni Montesdeoca scored the equalizer, his eighth goal of the season, with help from Bruening and Pieters.
“I just saw Jelani flick it back, and I knew Nils was going to hit it down so I just made the run to open space and I was able to put it in,” Montesdeoca said.
For the last 13 minutes of the half, UNC dominated possession. It fed off the energy of the equalizing goal, hoping to take the lead. The Tar Heels had three more shots, while JMU had none in those final moments of the first half.