Four hundred and sixty-eight days.
That’s how long it took redshirt junior Key White to return to the pitch for the North Carolina men's soccer team after being sidelined with injury last year.
After his sophomore season, everything looked to be pointing in the right direction for the Norfolk, Va. native. White was fresh off a breakout year that saw the speedy forward work up the depth chart to a starting role in North Carolina’s ACC Tournament bout against Notre Dame.
But any hopes of establishing himself as a full-time starter last year came to a crashing halt when White suffered a season-ending injury before the year’s start. In his first game back, the redshirt junior picked up right where he left off and helped lead North Carolina to a 2-1 victory over the Air Force Falcons.
Before White’s storybook return took hold, the Tar Heels found themselves in an early deficit.
After possessing the ball in its attacking third during the game’s early minutes, North Carolina was caught ball-watching. With little trouble, forward Thaddaeus Dewing slipped past the Tar Heels’ back line and found the back of the net — an early punch graduate midfielder Milo Garvanian said didn’t rattle the Tar Heels.
“The message all the time is to never let any adversity or any mistake break us down,” he said. “The team knows that whatever comes at us in the game, we have ready to bounce back from.”
UNC’s attack looked to be on the verge of finding the equalizer, earning the night’s first corner kick moments after Dewing’s goal. However, a failed conversion on the kick triggered a cold spurt that stretched into the midway point of the first half.
With the Tar Heels struggling on offense, head coach Carlos Somoano looked to his bench. At the 28th minute, two players subbed into the game for UNC, including White.