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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC men's soccer gears up for ACC Tournament opener agianst Syracuse

UNC graduate goalkeeper Alec Smir (1) successfully saves a penalty kick during the match against Loyola Marymount on Oct. 19. The Tar Heels defeated the Lions 2-0.

The North Carolina men’s soccer team will look to continue its recent success as it awaits the first round of the ACC Tournament, where the Tar Heels will face off against the Syracuse Orange at Dorrance Field on Nov. 3. 

The Orange’s finished with a record of 8-7-2, which included a 2-5-1 mark in conference play. Although the regular season record may not be particularly impressive upon first glance, the numbers that the team has put up tell a different story. 

The team’s potent offense has averaged over two goals per game, with a very dangerous forward Deandre Kerrleading the team with nine goals. Syracuse’s other key offensive weapons are forwards Manel Busquets and Curt Calov, who have scored six goals and five goals, respectively. 

Defensively, the Orange have been good, but not great. Their goalkeeping duo of Lucas Daunhauer and Russell Shealy have been effective enough to pull out the wins they have needed, but their overall numbers are suspect. Daunhauer started nine games and gave up an average of 1.43 goals to the opposition, while Shealy started eight games with a better average of 0.85 goals against. 

The Orange are going to need to work on keeping the ball in the offensive zone if they are going to match up well with the Tar Heels. 

North Carolina’s defense has been stout all season, allowing very few shots and preventing the ball from getting to their net. Graduate goalkeeper Alec Smir has only had to make 30 saves, but when he has needed to come up with the ball, he has not disappointed. He has averaged less than one goal against per game and has saved 67 percent of the shots that have come his way. 

Smir and the Tar Heels’ defense has stood tall over the course of their last three games, which all resulted in wins against top-15 teams. During the winning streak, UNC has allowed just one goal, and will need to keep Kerr and the dynamic duo of Busquets and Calov in check if they hope to secure a win on Wednesday. 

On the offensive side of the ball, the Tar Heels have some key contributors that will factor into the prospects of the team continuing their scoring pace against the Orange. They include first-year Tega Ikoba, who leads the team with six goals, junior Cameron Fisher with five and graduate Santiago Herrera with four. 

The Tar Heels have dominated their opponents when they get their offense to click on all cylinders, scoring goals in bunches against teams like Bucknell and N.C. State. UNC consistently outshot its opposition throughout the regular season, racking up 259 shots as opposed to just 82 from their opponents. 

This matchup between the Tar Heels and the Orange is bound to be a close game — judging from the talent on both sides of the ball for each team. The result is bound to be determined by which team takes advantage of their opponent’s rare mistakes. 

If the Tar Heels and the Orange each play to their skill levels, it is almost certain that the game will be very competitive, as each team looks to make a run through the rest of the ACC Tournament. The winner of the match will take on the two-seed Clemson in the second round, a team UNC both beat and tied with last season.  

@dthsports |

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