The energy at Dorrance Field was palpable in the North Carolina men’s soccer team’s 4-0 rout of N.C. State on Sunday night.
A sea of inflatable thunder sticks — given out to fans before the game — roared throughout the match. The crowd burst into cheers for every Tar Heel shot and save, and jeered at Wolfpack players in their vicinity.
At one point, a life-size alien doll dressed in UNC gear was being tossed around the student section.
And the fun was only put to an end after a fan ran out onto the pitch at the half, hoisting the extraterrestrial above his head.
“In Europe, we call it the 12th man — I think that really helped us tonight,” graduate defender Filippo Zattarin said. “You know, whenever something happens on the field, hearing the crowd helping you out and cheering really gives you that extra energy.”
It was exactly the atmosphere the former preseason No. 4 team needed after a disappointing stretch of five games with only two wins that left the team unranked. After dropping a match to UNC-Wilmington last Wednesday, head coach Carlos Somoano knew his squad needed to come into Sunday's showdown more level-headed.
“We weren't competing the way we should have been, and by that I mean we weren’t reacting to setbacks very well,” Somoano said. “We talked about not letting a mistake lead to another mistake, which leads to a goal, which leads to a loss. I think they got the message loud and clear.”
Zattarin helped lead a defensive unit that allowed only seven shots from the Wolfpack, and graduate goalkeeper Alec Smir recorded four saves to secure his sixth shutout of the season. The experienced UNC defense has only allowed 43 shots on the season, compared to the 188 taken by the Tar Heel offense.
“We did a very good job at covering each other and stepping at the right time,” Zattarin said. “So really, I think not only the defensive line but the whole 11 on the field did a good job at pressing them and making sure they would not play out.”