The North Carolina men’s soccer team (8-5-5) had its short-lived ACC Tournament run come to an end against No. 4 Syracuse (13-2-3) on Sunday, 1-0, after an 86th minute goal from the Orange.
The Tar Heels were able to quickly find their offensive footing Sunday, finishing with one shot on goal in the first half that red-hot junior Earnest Bawa put toward the center of the net in the 11th minute. But following this initial chance, it was mostly Syracuse in the opening 45 minutes.
The Orange finished the first frame with three shot attempts to UNC’s one and two corner kicks compared to the Tar Heels’ none. After 45 minutes, a first half defined by limited chances for both sides and a battle in the midfield ended in a 0-0 gridlock.
North Carolina opened the second frame with the second real scoring opportunity of the match, with sophomore forward Daniel Kutsch putting one on net in the 48th minute that was deflected by Syracuse goalkeeper Russell Shealy.
Shealy deflected another shot in the 85th minute from senior midfielder Cameron Fisher. Less than a minute later, Syracuse put its lone shot on goal of the night off the foot of Levonte Johnson to take a 1-0 lead.
The Tar Heels continued to fight, but to no avail. Moments after Syracuse’s goal, the final buzzer went off and UNC’s ACC Tournament run came to an end.
Who stood out?
As he has for much of the second half of the season, Bawa created one of the Tar Heels’ best scoring chances of the night just 10 minutes in. If he had been able to convert — as he did against Boston College in the opening round — the game’s outcome likely would have been very different.
UNC’s backline and midfield were also impressive as units, battling for possession against a talented Syracuse side for all 90 minutes.
When was it decided?
Possession was tight throughout the contest, but North Carolina earned the majority of scoring chances on Sunday.
Finishing with four shots on goal to the Orange’s one, the Tar Heels could have taken control of the game well before Syracuse’s 85th minute decider. The game was never fully decided until the buzzer sounded, as North Carolina continued to battle even after the late-game goal.
Why does it matter?
With just two ACC wins and a handful of uninspired losses to out-of-conference opponents, North Carolina’s season likely came to an end on Sunday. A win over one of the best teams in the nation in Syracuse likely would have helped the Tar Heels’ cause, but bowing out in the ACC quarterfinals likely means the end of the road for UNC.
North Carolina is now in position to miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2019, a year in which the Tar Heels also bowed out against Syracuse in heartbreaking fashion to end their campaign.
When do they play next?
After struggling in conference play against a stacked ACC, the Tar Heels’ season is likely over after Sunday’s loss.
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