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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC men's soccer upsets No. 11 Notre Dame in regular season finale, 3-1

Senior midfielder Milo Garvanian (22) kicks the ball at the game against Notre Dame on Friday, Oct. 29 at Dorrance Field. UNC won 3-1.

The North Carolina men’s soccer team (10-5-1, 4-4 ACC) pulled off the upset against No. 11 Notre Dame (9-5-2, 4-2-2 ACC) with a 3-1 victory, at Dorrance Field on Friday. 

What happened?

UNC kicked off the first half with aggressive on offense, scoring two goals within the first two minutes of play. Senior Milo Garvanian assisted first-year Tega Ikoba, who headed the ball into the net for the first goal just over a minute into the game. Less than thirty seconds later, Ikoba crossed the ball to first-year Ken Bellini for another quick score.  

The Tar Heels continued steady play, attempting to keep the ball on the offensive side of the field. UNC's defense prevented Notre Dame from getting many shots on goal, while attempting seven shots on the other end. 

Notre Dame had its first shot on goal in the 38th minute of play, which graduate goalkeeper Alec Smir saved. UNC shifted the pace back to aggressive offensive play near the end of the first half when senior Alex Rose entered the game and scored with an assist from junior Victor Olofsson in the 41st minute. 

The second half did not get off to the same solid start as the first for Ikoba, who received a yellow card after colliding with a Notre Dame player. This event was followed by missed opportunities for the Tar Heels. 

Junior Jonathan Jimenez’s cross through the middle of the box went untouched by the offense. Sophomore Tim Schels’ header soared to the corner of the goal, but it was saved by the Notre Dame goalie. 

A yellow card against Notre Dame even provided the chance for a UNC penalty shot in the 63rd minute of play, but the shot was missed. In the 64th minute, Smir deflected Notre Dame’s shot on goal until Notre Dame's Ethan O’Brien finished off the play and scored for the Fighting Irish.  

After Notre Dame’s first goal, the Tar Heels shut down the Notre Dame offense and prevented openings to score. Both defenses held the opposing offenses scoreless for the rest of the game, as the Tar Heels finished on top, 3-1. 

Who stood out? 

Forward Ikoba was a standout player for the offense. He scored with a header only a minute into the game and assisted the second goal of the game less than 30 seconds later. His key plays set the tone for the offense in the first half of the game. Garvanian, named ACC Offensive Player of the Week this week, assisted Ikoba for the first goal. 

The UNC defense also put out a great performance under captain and goalkeeper Alec Smir, named ACC Defensive Player of the Week. The defense only allowed one shot in the first half and two in the second to limit opportunities for Notre Dame to score throughout the game.

When was it decided?

The match was decided when the defense successfully held Notre Dame scoreless (and shot-less) in the first half and only allowed one goal in the second half. The early goals of the game for UNC in the first half enabled the team to keep its pace and come out on top, 3-1. 

Why does it matter?

The Tar Heels earned their third straight win against ranked opponents by upsetting No. 11 Notre Dame. They will enter their postseason on a hot streak despite late conference losses against Wake Forest and Louisville. UNC will advance its ranking coming out of the regular season and maintain its momentum for the ACC and NCAA tournaments. 

When do they play next?

The next game for the Tar Heels will be in the first round of the ACC Tournament on Nov. 4. 

@DTHSports | 

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