In a game where both teams were competing for control of the field, it took one penalty kick to solidify the Tar Heels advancement to the ACC quarterfinals with a 1-0 win over No. 10 Syracuse.
The No. 7 North Carolina men’s soccer team was awarded a penalty kick after Syracuse’s Christian Curti committed a foul from within the goalie box during the game's second overtime period.
Senior midfielder Milo Garvanian, knowing that the outcome of the game was on his back, took the opportunity to put the Tar Heels on the board.
“I wasn’t super nervous, I had the opportunity and I took it,” Garvanian said. “If we just stick to the way we play we can achieve success, we’ve been practicing all week.”
The team rushed onto the field in joy after Garvanian made the score 1-0, ensuring the Tar Heels spot in the quarterfinals.
Before this goal, however, the game was a quiet one. Several failed shots on goal, unsuccessful corners and two red cards kept both offenses dormant throughout.
Just last week, Garvanian earned the ACC Offensive Player of the Week award and, prior to Wednesday’s game, he scored two goals against No. 15 Loyola Marymount.
His fellow teammate and close friend, goalkeeper Alec Smir, earned the Defensive Player of the Week award during the same week. Smir attributed the team’s success on Wednesday to a strong defense and the team remaining confident in themselves. In a one-on-one save against Orange midfielder Hilli Goldhar, Smir forcefully blocked Goldhar’s attempt on goal.
“I knew I had to hold my ground, we definitely needed the defense to be strong,” Smir said.
Senior forward Santiago Herrera also made his presence known throughout the entirety of the game, playing an aggressive offense, despite Orange maintaining possession of the ball the majority of the regulation game.
“I wanted to help the left back which was Milo and I just knew it was my job to create more chances to win,” Herrera said.
He admitted that Syracuse forced the team into a couple of uncomfortable positions but that did not distract the team from realizing a goal. The Tar Heels knew they had to battle it out no matter how long it took.
One common theme arose from this game: everybody wanted to work together and stick to the plan.
The team seemed to establish a family environment on the field, as each player looked after each other and put together the right pieces to secure their spot in the next round of the championships. Head coach Carlos Somoano affirmed this sentiment, as he liked how in-sync his team was.
“Game by game, we need to find different ways to come out with a positive result,” Somoano said. “We need to find new ways to adjust and be together.”
Looking ahead to the team’s next game, Somoano hopes that the team works on getting better at plays and speed.
This win marks a four-game winning streak for the team; however, the work is far from over for the team, who must play at Clemson in the quarterfinals this Sunday.
Somoano and the team believe that if they continue to be on the same page and work together on the field, they can continue the winning streak.
“It is an internal journey, and we must work on playing faster next time,” Somoano said.
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