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UNC men's soccer musters just enough offense in 1-0 overtime win over Syracuse

UNC graduate goal keeper Alec Smir (1) prepares to catch the ball at the first round of the ACC men's soccer tournament against Syracuse on Nov. 3 at Dorrance field. UNC won 1-0 in the second overtime.

Offense wins games.

Fortunately for the North Carolina men’s soccer team, it was able to muster up just enough to win 1-0 in overtime in its first-round matchup against Syracuse in the ACC Tournament.

After 90 minutes of regulation and 15 minutes of overtime, the Tar Heels had just one shot on goal. But, 24 seconds later, senior midfielder Milo Garvanian stepped up to take a penalty shot after a Syracuse foul in the box.

Garvanian struck the ball past the keeper into the left corner of the net, winning the game for UNC and putting the team through to the quarterfinals against Clemson on Sunday.

“I was really just thinking you gotta put this shot right in the back,” Garvanian said. “I wasn’t really that nervous. We had been practicing all week, so I went up and took it.”

Syracuse found a way to get shots off on a North Carolina defense that had only allowed one goal in the past three games. The Orange attempted nine shots, including four on goal during the match. 

The most notable of these shots occurred in the second half with just under seven minutes to play. Syracuse forward Deandre Kerr slipped through the defense with the ball and had a one-on-one with graduate goalkeeper Alec Smir.

But Smir saved the ball and kept the game scoreless, setting the stage for overtime.

“I was thinking just to come out and be big and hold my ground and make sure I made the save,” he said.

The Tar Heels were dominated on both ends by the Orange, who accumulated 25 fouls throughout the game. The Orange’s physical and aggressive play frustrated North Carolina. This frustration led to two Tar Heels defenders accruing yellow cards in the first half. Then, a minute into overtime, sophomore defender Riley Thomas picked up his second yellow card of the game which resulted in him getting sent off, leaving UNC with only 10 men.

Despite being a man down, the Tar Heels defense pulled together and continued to stymie the Syracuse offense long enough to allow the offense a chance to score the crucial game-winning penalty kick.

“Just one step at a time we tried to get the win and, fortunately enough, we got it at the end,” fifth-year forward Santiago Herrera said. “I think we created some good chances. We definitely have got to do a better job of scoring a goal but very proud of the team. The way we defended, the way we stick together.”

The win against Syracuse brings the team’s winning streak to four games, with the three previous wins coming against top-15 opponents.

During the four-game winning streak, UNC displayed the team chemistry that has developed over the course of the season and played together offensively and defensively.

“We’re playing for each other and everybody’s doing their job, and that’s probably the most enjoyable thing as a coach, just seeing guys playing for each other,” head coach Carlos Somoano said. “Obviously, if you all keep that goal, you’ll maximize your potential.”

Offense wins games, and if the Tar Heels want to continue playing games this season, they’ll need to do better than one shot on goal in 105 minutes.

But luckily for the Tar Heels in the ACC Tournament opener, one shot on goal and one penalty kick was just enough.


@dthsports |

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