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UNC men's soccer beats UNC Wilmington 3-0 in first home win of the season

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Graduate forward, David Bercedo, (13) drives the ball downfield on Dorrance Field on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023 in the UNC mens soccer game against UNCW.

The North Carolina men’s soccer team (3-0-3, 0-0-2 ACC) collected its first home win of the season Tuesday night, blanking UNC Wilmington (4-1-2, 0-1-1 CAA), 3-0.

The Tar Heels drew first blood early. Six minutes into the game, sophomore defender Parker O’Ferral shifted the ball onto his right foot near the left corner of the penalty box. 

A cross to the back post found graduate midfielder Quenzi Huerman, whose soft touch met the foot of graduate forward Martin Vician who tapped the ball in to score near the goal line.

Graduate forward Martin Vician scores a goal on Dorrance Field on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023 in the UNC mens soccer game against UNCW.

From there, UNC struggled to establish control of the game. UNCW out-shot the Tar Heels 6-5 with several high-quality shots inside of the box, but the Seahawks failed to find the back of the net on any.

Junior goalkeeper Quinn Closson, a replacement for the injured graduate goalkeeper Collin Travasos, slipped while attempting a goal kick in the first half, injuring himself in the process, which forced UNC to substitute Closson for redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Andrew Cordes. Cordes started 14 of UNC’s 19 games last season.

Red-shirt sophomore goalkeeper Andrew Cordes watches the field on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023 in the UNC mens soccer game against UNCW.

Pressure high up the pitch was UNC's answer to the Seahawks’ stubborn defense in the second half. The Tar Heels committed more players to the press when UNCW went short on goal kicks, forcing more turnovers near the Seahawks’ goal.

When asked about the improved press after the game, head coach Carlos Somoano denied that there were any changes in the team’s pressing structure.

“Believe it or not, no,” Somoano said. “You would think so. But no, it was just doing it better.”

That pressure created Vician and the Tar Heels’ second goal. Sophomore midfielder Sam Williams won an interception near the Seahawks’ box and from there Huerman collected and drove the ball down the field with Vician running on his left.

Sophomore midfielder Sam Williams (7) dribbles the ball on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023 in the UNC mens soccer game against UNCW. UNC won 3-0.

Huerman passed the ball to Vician, who had just enough power on his ensuing shot to evade UNCW goalkeeper Jacob Randolph and notch his second goal of the game and his fourth goal of the season.

Meanwhile, the Seahawks’ comfort in getting near UNC’s box all but vanished, now struggling to get the ball out of their own half. It took over 27 minutes for UNCW to get its first of only three shots in the second half.

Somoano said it was Huerman who set the team straight as soon as halftime struck.

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“It was really that we all knew the standards were too low in the first half,” Huerman said about his halftime rally. “It wasn't good enough. So we needed to step it up a bit. Hold each other accountable.”

The North Carolina high press created another goal in the 74th minute of the game, this time with junior midfielder Andrew Czech winning the ball near the box and finding a pass.

After a failed acrobatic strike from Bercedo, junior midfielder Juan Caffaro snuck a pass near the goal line to a creeping Huerman for an uncontested tap-in. After celebrating with the bench, Huerman went to dap up Czech for his effort.

Not until this game had UNC shown the power of its high press. After a back-and-forth first half, the Tar Heels demonstrated they can take control of a game without the ball, staying undefeated in the process.

"We, like, just started running harder,” Vician said. “I mean, yeah, we have the system, we play [a] certain way, but it all comes down to how hard we run."

UNC will resume ACC play by hosting No. 11 Duke at Dorrance Field on Saturday at 7 p.m.

@dmtwumasi

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com