Buzzer beaters are one of the most exciting things in all of sports. They generally happen on the basketball court, but Friday night provided the rare instance where a buzzer beater took place on a soccer pitch.
The North Carolina men’s soccer team was on the right end of that moment, as the buzzer beater gave the team a 1-0 victory against No. 3 Clemson at Dorrance Field.
The game looked like it was going to result in a draw down to the last seconds, but some perfect timing and positioning by grad transfer defender Filippo Zattarin ensured the Tar Heels were able to pick up a win in their home opener against Clemson.
“I usually don’t go up to jump for set pieces because I’m not that tall, but I was like, 'OK, this is the last kick of the game in regular time, so I’m gonna go for the second ball,'" Zattarin said.
That second ball came off a free kick from junior midfielder Milo Garvanian, who lined up just outside the left side of the box in the match's final seconds. His cross was deflected high into the air, giving Zattarin his opportunity to score with just five seconds left in the game.
“I saw our tallest man, Matt Constant, our center back, he was making a run near post, and I was trying to find him and he ran over it and it was flicked on," Garvanian said. "Thankfully, Filippo got on the end of it, and we got a goal out of it.”
In the first half, neither team was able to get much going. Both teams took a few errant shots, but nothing was threatening. It made for a relatively easy night for UNC junior goalkeeper Alec Smir.
His performance in the team's 2-0 season-opening win against Duke earned him ACC Defensive Player of the Week honors, and he was named United Soccer Coaches Player of the Week. Friday’s contest didn’t call for him to do much in order to maintain a clean sheet, as the defense in front of him did its job in making shot attempts for the Tigers difficult. Smir saved the only two shots on goal with no difficulty.
There seemed to be a shift in energy in the second half from the Tar Heels, as they pressed more frequently and created more chances.
UNC head coach Carlos Somoano didn’t credit a change in strategy to the higher energy level, but he did note that he reminded his team to play harder coming out of halftime.
“We just talked about really digging down, and we weren’t playing with enough courage to execute the game plan that we wanted from the start," Somoano said.
Along with his cross, Garvanian was an integral part of the impressive job the Tar Heels did to execute that game plan and hold Clemson scoreless, as well as create chances for UNC to try to score as the game went on.
The midfielder played 88 out of 90 minutes, crediting the effort the team puts in every day for his ability to play at such a high level throughout almost the whole match.
"We try to keep that high intensity every day," Garvanian said. "Competing every day like we do just gives me a higher fitness level; almost all of our guys have it, and we’re proud of that aspect.”
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