Thirty-two seconds. It took unseeded UNC men’s soccer 32 seconds to take the game back into their hands and never look back.
When No. 5 seed Wake Forest’s star forward, Kyle Holcomb, scored on a rebound just 10 minutes into Monday's NCAA Quarterfinals match, it felt like maybe the high-scoring Demon Deacons would be too much for the Tar Heels. In fact, it was Holcomb who put away the game when Wake Forest beat UNC in overtime earlier this season, and he was looking to do it again.
But UNC senior forward Giovanni Montesdeoca had other ideas. And he just needed 32 seconds.
Avoiding defenders in the far corner, junior midfielder Milo Garvanian took a shot on goal from the far left of the field, sending the ball high. Wake Forest’s Holland Rula headed the ball to prevent a scoring chance, but Montesdeoca quickly collected the rebound and sent the ball far right past and in, evening the score.
“I told him (Montesdeoca) that it was massive that we got us back into the game,” UNC senior forward Santiago Herrera said. “It was really important for us to make that statement that we’re still in the game. He’s been working for so long and he definitely deserves it.”
And just like that, UNC was back in the game.
But before the Tar Heels could celebrate the defeat of their in-state rival, they withstood 90 minutes of intense play. The game, which saw seven yellow cards and one red card, was physical — and emotional — from start to finish.
“At this stage in the tournament, everyone is trying everything to win,” Herrera said postgame. “We got a little heated at the end, and we already talked about it that we have to manage our emotions a little better and channel that in a positive way.”
After a tied first half that was delayed by lightning and pouring rain, Wake Forest came out with a vengeance from halftime. Despite only registering four shots in the second, the Demon Deacons saw a few chances to score, including a dangerous shot by Omar Hernandez with 29 minutes left that was stopped by UNC’s Joe Pickering on a slide block.
But Wake couldn’t break the Tar Heels' defense and capitalize on its chances, and a yellow card on defender Garrison Tubbs with 22 minutes remaining changed the momentum of the game.
With the foul, the Tar Heels lined up for the free kick. Garvanian once again kicked through the wall of defenders, and Herrera capitalized on the rebound to sail the ball to the top left corner.
Since defeating Charlotte in penalty kicks in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament and then blanking No. 4 seed Stanford in the third round, the Tar Heels have made a habit of upsetting teams. And with the final goal from Herrera coming in the 68th minute, the Tar Heels once again knocked off a higher-seeded team to move on to their ninth appearance in the NCAA College Cup — their seventh in the last 13 years and fourth under head coach Carlos Somoano.
With the win, the Tar Heels will face Marshall on Friday. But they have their sights set a little further — specifically, on Monday’s championship. They believe they can do it.
"You can't have confidence if you don't work every single day," Somoano said postgame. "We've put in a lot of work, and we believe we're capable. Our goal is to go play on Monday. We believe that's possible. Why not? We're here, we've put in the work. We're as capable as anybody else left playing."