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Wednesday January 26th

UNC men's soccer advances to ACC semifinals after win over Virginia Tech

Junior midfielder Jack Skahan (8) scores in the second half against Virginia Tech. UNC defeated Virginia Tech 3-0 at Finley Field on Sunday Nov. 4
Buy Photos Junior midfielder Jack Skahan (8) scores in the second half against Virginia Tech. UNC defeated Virginia Tech 3-0 at Finley Field on Sunday Nov. 4

For 10 minutes after the starting whistle, the No. 4 North Carolina men's soccer team and No. 22 Virginia Tech shifted the ball up and down the field without a shot from either team.

After the Hokies (10-6-3, 3-4-1 ACC) registered the first shot in the 11th minute, it lit a fire under the Tar Heels (13-2-1, 6-1 ACC). Senior Nils Bruening returned the shot with a shot of his own that was blocked 20 seconds later, resulting in a corner kick.

The ball stayed on that side of the field until forward Jack Skahan took a throw in about 30 seconds later. It rebounded around the box and eventually found Jeremy Kelly, who was positioned at the top of the box. Kelly fired the ball into the bottom right corner of the goal, putting the Tar Heels up, 1-0.

Kelly’s goal marked his first of the season and a momentum shift for UNC in the first half. After the Tar Heels took the lead, they let loose with shots taken by Kelly, Skahan and Bruening all coming shortly after the goal.

“This season I wanted to get more goals, but that didn’t really happen,” Kelly said. “I guess I’ve just been trying to be as good as a defender as I can be. I’ve always been an attacking player, so I think defense comes first and the attack comes from there.”

This rang true for the Tar Heels, who held Virginia Tech to only three shots in the first half, none of which were on goal, on the way to a 3-0 victory.

“We’re glad to get the win,” Kelly said. “It was a physical team, but we did what we had to do to get the win, and that’s what matters at this point.”

UNC maintained the momentum for the remainder of the first half but did not convert again until the 37th minute, when Skahan crossed the ball into the box to junior Jelani Pieters. Pieters passed it back into the middle, where junior Mauricio Pineda slid the ball past the goalie with one touch.

Into the second half, the Tar Heels had numerous early chances to score but were unable to come up with another goal.

Then, Skahan struck, extending his goal-scoring streak to another game — scoring his sixth goal in four matches on a through ball from first-year Milo Garvanian to extend the Tar Heel lead to 3-0. Skahan has also had two assists during that stretch. 

“I mean that was just another example of my teammates putting me in a spot where I’m wide open,” Skahan said. “Like, it’s not me at all. I was literally wide open because of my teammates moving the ball the way they did."

Skahan said afterward that although scoring goals is important, the UNC defense is why the team has been excellent this season. 

"The biggest thing is to just stay strong defensively, which is what we’ve done," Skahan said. "Our three defenders are unbelievable, so it’s the reason we have the lowest goals against in the ACC. If we can just keep doing that, and just keep scoring goals we’ll be alright.”

With the win, North Carolina advances to face Duke in Cary on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the ACC semifinals.

"Whatever comes on Wednesday we'll deal with," head coach Carlos Somoano said. "We embrace the competition."

@megandennehy

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com


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