The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday January 18th

In a chippy rivalry game, UNC men's soccer blows 2-0 lead in loss to Duke

<p>UNC Junior Raul Aguilera (28) dribbling towards the goal hoping to best Duke’s senior captain Brandon Williamson (19) on the defensive side. UNC lost to Duke 2-3.&nbsp;</p>
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UNC Junior Raul Aguilera (28) dribbling towards the goal hoping to best Duke’s senior captain Brandon Williamson (19) on the defensive side. UNC lost to Duke 2-3. 

The Battle of the Blues is one of the most anticipated matchups in any sport, and Friday’s matchup didn’t disappoint. 

The match between North Carolina men’s soccer and Duke was a chippy game riddled with fouls, shoves and yellow cards, but only one shade of blue could come out on top. 

No. 14 UNC fell 3-2 to the Blue Devils despite dominating the first half and grabbing a 2-0 lead. Duke hadn't won at UNC since 1999, and this is the first time the Tar Heels have lost to the Blue Devils since 2014. It's also the first instance since that year that they have given up more than two goals in a game.

After the loss, head coach Carlos Somoano declined to make players available. Two days later, first-year defender Blake Malone spoke to The Daily Tar Heel about the loss. 

“We don't like to lose in general, but of course losing to our longtime rival, Duke, is kind of really gut wrenching,” Malone said. “But, even though we lost, we're focused on what's next and we're excited for what's to come.”

Despite hailing from Las Vegas, Malone is no stranger to the Tobacco Road rivalry. He grew up knowing about the rivalry through UNC basketball, and while he didn’t have a strong allegiance to any team at the time, Malone said now that he’s part of the rivalry, he hates losing to Duke that much more. 

“It feels like it's one of the worst feelings,” Malone said. “Now that I'm actually part of Carolina, and I am a Tar Heel, it just means that much more to me that we do win.” 

With 2,244 fans in attendance, the energy in the UNC Soccer and Lacrosse Stadium was palpable.

“One of our players would beat a Duke player on the dribble, and all of a sudden, you hear the crowd go loud,” Malone said. “It was really great to have that support and know that they were there behind us the entire time. Even when times got tough, they were still there.”

By the 25th minute, UNC had a 2-0 lead and was relishing the moment. Somoano thought the team may have celebrated a little too long, especially after the first goal. 

“Something we discussed at halftime is to keep playing,” Somoano said. “You certainly want to celebrate a goal, but you have to get back on the line and defend the next play.”

Duke turned around and promptly scored a goal of its own a minute later. 

While UNC headed into the half with a 2-1 lead, it didn’t last very long. Duke tied the game just 12 minutes into the second period, tallying a foul and a yellow card in that time as well. 

Then, the deciding goal came in the 63rd minute when a Blue Devil seemingly walked the ball into the goal. A giveaway in the back led to a one-on-one with the UNC goalkeeper, Alec Smir.

“We’re just making too many mistakes right now,” Somoano said. “It’s obviously been a trend for us this year, and they just add up over the course of time.”

For the rest of the half, the game was riddled with fouls, almost fights and yellow cards, but it wasn’t one-sided. UNC had four fouls and a single yellow card, which was given to Malone. 

He came off a few seconds later, and while he was down about the game's turnout, multiple players came up to the first-year with some encouraging words. Fellow first-year Cameron Fisher went as far as to give Malone a hug as he walked down the sideline, a gesture that didn’t go unnoticed by Malone. 

While the game didn’t go in UNC’s favor, there was still a silver lining in the match for the Tar Heels. As Malone said after recounting the hugs and encouragement from his teammates, “They’re my family.” 

“For them to always have my back, it means a lot. It just shows how strong we are.”

@mwc13_3

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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