Revenge is sweet for the Demon Deacons.
Last year, the UNC men's soccer team upset Wake Forest, 2-1, in the NCAA quarterfinals to crush the Demon Deacons’ College Cup hopes.
In the rematch on Friday night, Wake Forest got the last laugh with a 2-1 win of its own.
After a scoreless first half, Wake Forest forward Kyle Holcomb scored off an assist from teammates Chase Oliver and Hosei Kijima within the fourth minute of the second period. The Tar Heels answered five minutes later, when forward Tega Ikoba scored off an assist from midfielder Tim Schels.
“The ball got knocked free and I tried to draw the attention of the defenders to me,” Schels said. “Tega did a good run. I saw him coming up to my left, so I just tried to play it through and obviously he had a great finish to equalize the game for us.”
In a physical game with 24 fouls, UNC forward Gerit Wintermeyer was injured and had to be carted off the field in the 70th minute.
Wintermeyer has played a prominent role in UNC’s aggressive offensive playstyle, attempting 26 shots this season. The only UNC player who has more shot attempts is forward Santiago Herrera with 31.
“I think that moving forward, it’s going to be hard to fill that spot,” Ikoba said. “I’m going to have to work on it, and be able to just get the ball down and provide that strength up top for our team.”
Additionally, Ikoba and his teammates weren’t surprised at the match’s physicality.
“We definitely were expecting it,” Ikoba said. “We know that Wake especially likes to go down a lot, and we tried to make sure we could defend in a way that we could avoid that.”
Late fouls turned out to spell doom for the Tar Heels, as in the 88th minute, the Demon Deacons were awarded a penalty kick that was converted by Jake Swallen.
“We could have done a bit of a better job in doing so and preventing those fouls,” Ikoba said. “And something we’ve been working on this season is to lower the amount of fouls we have per game.”
This season, UNC has struggled to win conference games consistently. Friday’s loss dropped them to 2-3 in ACC play, only extending the pattern.
Their final three conference games will definitely pose challenges — currently, Louisville, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame all hold better records than North Carolina. UNC is set to play Louisville on the road on Oct. 15th.
In the meantime, however, North Carolina will look to bounce back with a non-conference win.
“We play Wofford next, so we’re gonna concentrate on Wofford,” head coach Carlos Somoano said.
In future games, UNC will look to play with a greater attention to detail and higher intensity throughout the entire match.
“I think it’s just the small details,” Ikoba said. “We need to just start strong and finish strong. We just can’t have too many moments where we drift in and out. We just have to stay strong the whole way through.”
Schels had similar thoughts, noting that wins will only come if UNC can tie together all loose ends.
“We just gotta follow our match plan,” Schels said. “Every game is so close, especially in the ACC. All those small details play off at the end. It’s like, you can’t check off any second in the game, and if you do so, your opponent will punish you for that.”
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