The No. 2 North Carolina men’s soccer team (3-0-1) extended its undefeated start to the season to four games on Monday night, defeating the No. 22 Davidson Wildcats (2-1-0), 3-0.
The Tar Heels held the offensive keys to the game early on, with sophomore midfielder Ernest Bawa registering two shots within the first five minutes.
Seven minutes later, UNC had another opportunity to open the scoring when both senior midfielder Milo Garvanian and fifth-year forward Santiago Herrera had shots that just couldn’t find the back of the net. By contrast, it took the Wildcats until the 23rd minute to register their first shot, which was saved by graduate goalkeeper Alec Smir.
In the 34th minute, the Tar Heels were finally able to break the deadlock. Using some slick tiki-taka passing, first-year forward Tega Ikoba was able to break into the box and get on the end of first-year midfielder Ken Bellini’s pass to give North Carolina a 1-0 lead. One more headed shot from Davidson’s Luke Bryant was all either team could muster for the rest of the half.
The second half saw both teams start out rough, with Davidson committing five fouls in the first 16 minutes and UNC taking just as long to register its first shot of the half, thanks to Garvanian. Aside from the odd shot from either team, the game stayed at this pace, partly due to the physical play of the Wildcats, who registered three of their four yellow cards of the night between the 69th and 76th minutes.
Because the speed of play remained the same, it looked like UNC might just finish the game with the lone goal. Herrera made sure this wouldn’t be the case, though, scoring a tap in off a loose ball in the 85th minute to make it 2-0. Just four minutes later, Ikoba added a third goal to that, scoring off a beautiful ball from Garvanian to double his tally on the night, allowing the Tar Heels to travel back to Chapel Hill with a comfortable 3-0 win.
Who stood out?
Ikoba was the clear man of the match, opening his goalscoring account in Chapel Hill with a two-goal brace. Those two goals were the first points the Iowa native registered as a Tar Heel, having only played in two previous matches for 27 and 30 minutes against VCU and Georgia Southern, respectively.
Garvanian also provided an offensive spark to the team, assisting Ikoba’s second goal while also taking two shots during the game.
When was it decided?
Despite Davidson registering just one shot on goal through the whole match, a 1-0 lead is never truly secure. When Hererra’s tap-in found the back of the net in the 85th minute, he knocked the last wind out of the Wildcats, who conceded one more in a matter of minutes before closing the game out.
Why does it matter?
With a win against the No. 22 Wildcats, the Tar Heels have gone unbeaten in their first four games, a feat they haven’t accomplished since 2018. That year, UNC won 14 games and pieced together a run to the ACC Championship, falling to Louisville in the final.
With strong performances from Ikoba and Garvanian on Monday, as well as Bawa and Herrera showing off in their first outings this season, there is only room for this UNC team to grow, even at No. 2 in the nation per TopDrawerSoccer.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels’ next match is a road game at No. 6 Pittsburgh (2-2-0), set to kick off on Friday, Sept. 10 at 7 p.m.
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