The No. 18 North Carolina men’s soccer team (3-1-1, ACC 1-0) defeated No. 9 Virginia Tech (4-1, ACC 0-1) on Friday, 3-1, to win its third straight game and first conference game of the season.
The game against Virginia Tech was UNC’s first ACC game of the 2019 season. Early in this matchup, Virginia Tech tested North Carolina.
In the first 19 minutes of play, the Tar Heels had no shots on goal while the Hokies had three. Neither team could find the back of the net.
This continued until the 23rd minute when Virginia Tech’s Brendan Moyers threw the ball in and teammate Kristo Strickler was able to head the ball past UNC goalie Alec Smir. With that goal, the Hokies took an early lead, 1-0.
Although the Tar Heels were down, they rallied to bounce back. Less than five minutes after Virginia Tech's goal, UNC’s Jelani Pieters scored to tie the game, his first goal of the season.
After tying the game, it didn't take long for UNC to take the lead. In the 32nd minute, Mauricio Pineda scored on an assist from Jeremy Kelly, giving North Carolina a 2-1 lead.
In the first half, Virginia Teach had five shots on goal to UNC's three. In addition, the Hokies had five corner kicks while the Tar Heels had just one. Even though Virginia Tech led North Carolina in these offensive categories, UNC was able to capitalize on its opportunities and minimize the Virginia Tech offense.
At the start of the second half, North Carolina and Virginia Tech took shots at each other, but both team’s defenses were able to hold off the efforts. In the first, eleven minutes of the half, the Tar Heels had one shot while Virginia Tech had two.
That style of play continued until the 64th minute when UNC’s Martin Salas rocketed the ball into the back of the net to bring UNC's lead to 3-1. Despite three unanswered goals by the Tar Heels, the Hokies kept pushing and took five shots in the remainder of the game, but they were unable to score.
North Carolina was able to hold on and secure the victory, 3-1. With the win over Virginia Tech, UNC extended its winning streak to three games and notched its first conference win of the season.
Who stood out?
Of Virginia Tech's 16 shots, Smir saved six and allowed only one goal for North Carolina. The sophomore goalkeeper has started all five games for the Tar Heels this season, and he has allowed just five goals this season.
Along with Smir, both Salas and Pieters had standout performances against the Hokies. The duo scored their first goals of the season, heating up right before UNC begins the majority of its conference schedule.
When was it decided?
With the Hokies and Tar Heels tied, 1-1, Pineda's goal to give North Carolina the lead made the difference. That goal was Pineda’s second of the season.
Although the Hokies outshot the Tar Heels with seven shots on goal to UNC's five, North Carolina was able to stop the Virginia Tech offense and capitalize on both ends of the field.
Why does it matter?
With an upset win over a highly ranked opponent, the UNC's record improves to 3-1-1 on the season. In the past three games, North Carolina has scored 10 goals and held its opponents to just one.
This strong run over the last three games has been a significantly improved display compared to UNC's first two games of the season in which the Tar Heels conceded three goals.
When do they play next?
North Carolina will return to Chapel Hill to face Davidson at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the UNC Soccer & Lacrosse Stadium.
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