While the North Carolina men's soccer team's 3-0 shut-out victory against Georgia Southern Friday night appeared to be a step in the right direction, players and coaches believe there is still room for improvement.
Though the Tar Heels performed better statistically compared to their draw against VCU last Sunday, sophomore midfielder Ernest Bawa was not pleased with the team’s performance or his individual game. Bawa scored the lone goal last Sunday and then had one goal and one assist against Georgia Southern.
Despite his personal accomplishments, he knows the team still has another level to reach.
“To be honest with you, I think we took a step back today as our coach was saying in the locker room," Bawa said. "I don’t think we are anywhere near our potential right now. We’re not happy with our performance and I think it’s up to us to make it up starting from practice tomorrow.”
Bawa was the first to score for UNC, putting a goal on the board with just three minutes left in the first half. His teammate, junior midfielder Cameron Fisher, also had one goal and one assist on the night.
Though Fisher was happy with his abilities to convert opportunities and assist his teammates throughout the game, he criticized the team’s slow first half performance.
“I think obviously as we play harder teams, the first half definitely needs to be better from us as a whole, from everyone," Fisher said. "And against a good team, we could get punished, so from that aspect we have to be better or else it’s going to cost us.”
Despite the team’s overall mindset for improvement, Bawa has been one of the bright spots for the Tar Heels during these past few games. He scored the lone goal against VCU and continued his strong play against Georgia Southern.
Head coach Carlos Somoano praised Bawa for his consistent performance, especially his growth.
“Bawa has obviously been great because he’s bringing some positive energy onto the field, and he is really ambitious in front of the goal," Somoano said. "He’s really hungry and that’s making a difference in terms of his positive spirit and ability to score goals.”
As the sixth-ranked team in the country, the Tar Heels haven't been living up to their own expectations thus far. The team will take on much tougher opponents down the road, including No. 3 Pittsburgh this week. These competitive teams will force North Carolina to begin playing to their capabilities — or at least try to.
"I do think in a lot of areas it was just kind of us not doing the little things well," Somoano said. "Our speed of play was a bit slow, our execution was a bit off, timing was not as good. These things add up and when you have a lot of little things done just slightly not as well, it makes a massive difference in our game."
Although the team is unbeaten through three games, and Friday's shutout performance seemed to be another step in the right direction, the reality of the team’s performance was found in details fans couldn’t catch under the lights.
“I think we need to get back to really paying attention to details and doing the little things as well as we can and not letting those little things slide,” Somoano said.