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The Daily Tar Heel

No. 13 UNC men's soccer blanks Elon, 2-0, to continue undefeated season

UNC sophomore midfielder Sam Williams (7) runs for the ball during the men’s soccer game against Elon at Dorrance Field on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023.

The No. 13 North Carolina men’s soccer team (5-0-4, 1-0-3 ACC) defeated Elon (1-6-2, 0-3-1 CAA) Tuesday evening in a hard-fought 2-0 game, extending its unbeaten streak to nine.

Elon’s offensive and defensive pressure early on in the contest gave the Tar Heels issues. The Phoenix opened with two shots in the third and fifth minutes, both of which were blocked away by Tar Heel defenders, and UNC struggled to get the ball into the final third.

North Carolina's first shot on goal came in the 13th minute, as a weak attempt by junior midfielder Andrew Czech that Elon’s goalie handled easily. Still, the Phoenix controlled possession in the first 20 minutes of the game, firing off quality shots that just missed the frame. 

Redshirt sophomore goalie Andrew Cordes made his first save of the contest in the 24th minute after Elon forward Jack Dolk dribbled the ball around graduate defender Vemund Hole Vik and rocketed a grounder into Cordes’ chest.

Neither team could find the back of the net in the first half and the Tar Heels were both out-possessed and outshot, 4-2.

“The team wasn’t very good in the first half,” head coach Carlos Somoano said. “Give credit to Elon, they were more inspired, more energetic than us, played harder. And we weren’t very good.”

UNC’s offensive struggles continued in the early stages of the second half. Graduate forward Martin Vician and graduate midfielder Quenzi Huerman could not connect on a short cross in the box, and an attempt off a free kick was easily headed away by Elon defenders.

Huerman looked to spark the North Carolina offense in the 57th minute with a strike from the edge of the box, but the ball sailed directly into the diving arms of the Elon goalkeeper.

The Phoenix got its best opportunity of the night shortly after. In the 59th minute, a shot from Elon defender Myson Darden bounced off the chest of Cordes. He was forced to dive on the ensuing rebound just before an Elon striker could send it into the back of the net.

The Tar Heels ended Elon's hopes for an upset in the 66th minute, though. Huerman dropped the ball off for senior forward Ernest Bawa between two Phoenix defenders, and Bawa was tripped up at the top of the box. 

After a review, UNC was awarded a penalty kick.  Somoano said Bawa’s run was “a game-winning play.”Huerman stepped up and delivered the ball off the inside of the right post, bouncing off the back of the Elon goalie and into the net.

“At that point, we had started to make some of the adjustments that we talked [about],” Somoano said. “We started playing a little bit better, and Bawa, I think in the first half and the second half, came on and really impacted the game for us.”

Huerman was returning off a one-game suspension from a red card in UNC’s bout against Duke and his goal in the contest adds another to the Seton Hall transfer’s strong offensive performance this year. It was his seventh goal of the season, matching his career high of goals in a season. Nonetheless, Huerman was not happy with his execution all game.

“I gotta be accountable on this one,” Huerman said, “I think I had the worst performance that I’ve had all year. I think I’m supposed to be one of the leaders of the offense, and I let down the team.”

Elon managed one final shot on goal in the 76th minute but was saved by Cordes. In just his third start of the season, Cordes earned his second shutout. He finished with 3 saves on the night.

“At some point, you have to take a hard look in the mirror,” Bawa said. “The defense is doing the job, keeping the ball out of the goal. They’re putting their bodies on the line and it’s about time for us to step up.”

A late goal in the ninetieth minute doubled the Tar Heel lead. Vician crossed it into senior midfielder Ahmad Al-Qaq who slid the ball past the Elon goaltender, securing the victory for UNC.

The Tar Heels will take on No. 18 Syracuse in a top-20 bout Friday night at Dorrance Field.


@dthsports | 

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