The No. 18 North Carolina men’s soccer team suffered a 2-1 defeat at No. 9 Clemson in the ACC Tournament quarterfinal on Sunday night.
Clemson came out with aggression, firing off two shots within six minutes and putting pressure on the Tar Heels’ defense with three early corner kicks. UNC held its ground, however, and found its own opportunities on the goal with two shots by fifth-year senior forward Santiago Herrera and sophomore midfielder Tim Schels early in the first half. In the 20th minute, Schels set up Herrera’s second shot, which broke through for the Tar Heels’ first goal of the night.
In the 34th minute, Clemson was on the attack once again, unleashing four straight shots towards graduate goalkeeper Alec Smir. Smir saved three, but could not stop the last as Clemson knotted the game in the 37th minute.
To start the second half, the Tar Heels put much more pressure on the opponent’s defense, regaining their footing after falling on their heels at the end of the first. Throughout the first 30 minutes of the period, UNC out-shot Clemson and held its opponent at bay with forced giveaways and key saves from Smir.
Clemson was able to repeatedly penetrate the Tar Heels’ defense, however, and in the 76th minute, Clemson’s Quinn McNeill raced behind the UNC defenders to knock in a pass for the winning goal.
UNC was unable to answer in the final 15 minutes, which sealed the 2-1 defeat.
Who stood out?
Herrera scored his fifth goal of the season and was a key part of keeping the Tar Heels’ offense aggressive in the first half. He finished the game with two shots.
Schels also played well for UNC with two shots and an assist on the team’s only goal of the night. First-year forward Tega Ikoba was also active on the offensive side with three shots.
When was it decided?
This game was decided in the second period after Clemson’s go-ahead goal in the 76th minute. This was a pretty even game, however, as neither team had an advantage on shots, shots on goal, or fouls.
Clemson won the game with consistent pressure on the UNC defense as their last goal was a result of the Tar Heels’ inability to keep their opponent away from the goal.
Why does it matter?
Although UNC still has a chance to make the NCAA Tournament, this loss did not help the team’s bid. This loss broke the team’s four-game winning streak, and the Tar Heels were looking for a strong finish in the ACC Tournament to solidify their spot in the postseason.
This game brings the team’s record to 11-6-1 with a couple of ranked wins including Virginia Tech and Loyola Marymount. With a winning record and some key victories, UNC has proven to be a competitive team that can play with some of the best in the country, and the Tar Heels hope to continue to play this fall.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels’ next match is to be determined as the rest of the conference championships are decided. The selection show will be on Monday, Nov. 15 at 1 p.m.
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