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Late penalty dooms UNC men's soccer in 2-1 loss to Wake Forest

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UNC sophomore midfielder Yaya Bakayoko (29) sends the ball down the field past the Demon Deacons during the Oct. 8 game against Wake Forest. UNC lost 1-2.

The North Carolina men’s soccer team (6-4-1, 2-3-0 ACC) lost to Wake Forest (6-4-1, 1-3-1 ACC), 2-1, at Dorrance Field on Friday night.

What happened?

Wake Forest wasted no time pressing the Tar Heel defense. Within the fourth minute, Wake Forest forward Kyle Holcomb broke away for a shot that missed right. 

Shortly after, UNC returned to its aggressive offensive playstyle, attempting three shots in the span of four minutes. Graduate forward Santiago Herrera sent the ball to the bottom right of the goal, but it was saved by Wake Forest goalkeeper Trace Alphin. Junior forward Jonathan Jimenez took the next two shots — the first was saved by Alphin while the second soared over the goal.

Sophomore midfielder Colin Thomas got another promising look just before the half ended, hitting the left woodwork. The chippy first half saw six fouls from Wake Forest, three of which were from midfielder Omar Hernandez. UNC had three fouls, and by halftime, the game remained scoreless.

Shortly after the second half started, Wake Forest midfielder Chase Oliver broke away and streaked down the left side of the field with the ball, lobbing it to defender Kijima Hosei. Hosei headed the ball, finding Holcomb in the middle of the goal box who found the back of the net to give Wake Forest a 1-0 lead. 

UNC first-year forward Tega Ikoba then registered two fouls within the next three minutes. In the 53rd minute, Ikoba sent the ball to the bottom right corner of the goal off an assist by sophomore midfielder Tim Schels, evening the score 1-1. Seven minutes later, Wake Forest freshman Ryan Fessler attempted a shot that went out left.

Just before the 70th minute, UNC graduate forward Gerit Wintermeyer was injured after colliding with a Wake Forest player. Wintermeyer was carted off the field shortly after. The status of his injury is unknown.

In the 77th minute, Alphin saved two shots from UNC first-year Ken Bellini and Herrera, respectively. A corner kick in the 86th minute gave Wake Forest’s Holcomb a promising header, but UNC goalkeeper Alec Smir leaped up and knocked the ball away.

However, the celebration was short-lived. A foul on UNC’s Joe Pickering set up a Wake Forest penalty kick, which was scored by redshirt junior Jake Swallen. UNC would get two more corner kick attempts before the end of regulation, but could not score again.

Who stood out? 

Schels’ assist to Ikoba provided UNC’s only goal of the game. Additionally, Herrera continued to play his part in leading UNC's aggressive offense, attempting three of UNC’s nine shots.

Holcomb led the Wake Forest attack, attempting three shots and scoring one goal. Goalkeeper Alphin also had four key saves.

When was it decided?

In the 87th minute, Wake Forest’s Swallen kicked a penalty shot, glancing off the left of the crossbar and bouncing in. which gave the Demon Deacons a late lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Why does it matter?

UNC is now 2-3 in conference play, remaining at second-to-last in the ACC Coastal Division. Coming off a big 4-0 win against conference rival N.C. State Sunday night, the Tar Heels needed to regain momentum to stay in conference championship contention. With this loss, the team fell to ninth in the ACC.

When do they play next?

UNC will play in a home match against Wofford on Tuesday. The game will begin at 7 p.m.

@DTHSports |

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Daniel Wei

Daniel Wei is a 2023-24 assistant sports editor at The Daily Tar Heel. He has previously served as a senior writer. Daniel is a junior pursuing a double major in business administration and economics.