The No. 7 seed North Carolina men’s soccer team (8-4-5, 3-2-4 ACC) defeated No. 10 seed Boston College (4-7-5, 1-5-3 ACC) in the first round of the ACC Championship, 1-0, to keep its season alive.
North Carolina came out attacking in the opening half, finishing the first 45 minutes with eight shots — two of which were on goal — while controlling possession.
The Tar Heels midfield domination kept the Eagles almost entirely out of their attacking third. Boston College only attempted one shot in the first half. Despite the impressive play, UNC continued its struggles finding the back of the net, entering halftime in a 1-1 gridlock.
In the second half, it was much of the same story: Tar Heels attacks coming up short, and the Eagles staying on their heels in front of goal. Boston College gained more chances on counterattacks — finishing the second half with four shots and its only attempt on goal for the night — but UNC’s attack was simply better.
In the 82nd minute, the Tar Heels finally broke through by way of a headed goal by junior Ernest Bawa, who had frequently threatened to score throughout the night. He finished with a team-high six shots — two of which were on goal — and put together dangerous runs that helped create many of the Tar Heels’ best scoring chances.
UNC continued to control possession for the rest of the match, though the Eagles forced North Carolina goalkeeper Marco Saborio-Perez to make his only save of the night in the 90th minute, and the Tar Heels took a 1-0 victory to live another day in the ACC Championship.
Who stood out?
Over the last month, Bawa has helped carry a previously stagnant UNC attack. The junior has had a goal contribution in half of the Tar Heels last six games, despite having not previously scored or assisted before this stretch.
Before the header, Bawa was creating many of North Carolina’s second half scoring opportunities. His continued success in the attacking third will be crucial if UNC hopes to continue its tournament run in a stacked ACC.
When was it decided?
Despite North Carolina maintaining control of possession throughout the contest and earning more threatening chances, the outcome wasn’t decided until Bawa’s 82nd minute goal helped the Tar Heels secure advancement.
Why does it matter?
A loss tonight would have likely ended the Tar Heels’ season. With a .500 record in the ACC and a series of disappointing results over the last month, a win tonight was no guarantee.
Still, UNC got the job done and will have a chance to keep its season going, but a bout with national No. 3 Syracuse awaits this weekend. The Tar Heels haven’t faced the Orange this year — but they’ve fared well against the upper echelon of the ACC, drawing with both Duke and Virginia.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will head to Syracuse on Sunday to face the No. 2 seed Orange in the quarterfinals of the ACC Championship.
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