The North Carolina men’s soccer team (7-4-4, 2-3-3 ACC) defeated William & Mary (4-6-6, 2-3-3 Colonial Athletic Association) on the road Tuesday, 3-0, to close its non-conference slate.
North Carolina came out firing, scoring just under four minutes into the contest by way of a goal from first-year midfielder Sam Williams. The goal was just the second of Williams’ North Carolina career.
Moments later, junior Ernest Bawa scored again to give UNC a 2-0 lead before the match entered the 10th minute. The goal extended an impressive run for Bawa, who added a goal contribution for the third time in the last four games. Before an Oct. 14 match with N.C. State, Bawa hadn’t scored or assisted all season.
By the end of the first half, the Tar Heels had added another goal and outshot the Tribe 6-2 in the opening 45 minutes.
Though North Carolina didn’t go on to score in the second frame, its offensive pressure persisted. The Tar Heels created three more shots, forcing William & Mary goalkeeper Will Stack to make two saves.
At the end of the night, UNC left Williamsburg, Va. with a 3-0 victory and earned its first win since an Oct. 11 bout with VCU.
Who stood out?
Bawa’s role in a struggling UNC attack continued to grow on Tuesday, despite playing just 48 minutes. The junior has scored or assisted on half of the Tar Heels’ goals in the past four games and is currently tied for third on the team in both goals and assists despite his contributions beginning in the back half of the season.
North Carolina will need more players to step up in the attack if they hope to be competitive against a stacked ACC Tournament field — the Tar Heels have scored just seven goals in seven conference games this year.
Goalkeeper Marco Saborio-Perez was also impressive in his second start of the season, saving a career-high three shots.
When was it decided?
When Bawa buried his goal to give UNC a 2-0 lead just under 10 minutes into the contest, it was all but over. The Tribe hasn’t scored more than two goals in a match since September, and were on a three-game skid entering Tuesday.
North Carolina’s continued pressure in the second half helped secure the victory as well despite the Tribes improved attack.
Why does it matter?
Despite earning results in two of their last three, the Tar Heels have been on a skid in the last two weeks — drawing with sub-.500 Boston College, losing 3-0 to Elon and drawing with a struggling N.C. State side.
North Carolina is fighting an uphill battle to make the NCAA Tournament, but a dominant win was much needed as the Tar Heels prepare to face a ranked Virginia side before heading into the ACC Tournament. North Carolina needs a win against the Cavaliers to have any hope of hosting in the first round of the conference tournament.
When do they play next?
North Carolina will be back at Dorrance Field on Friday to face No. 18 Virginia at 7 p.m.
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