Slowly sweeping his hand away from his body, in a horizontal motion, Carlos Somoano illustrated how consistent senior center-back Til Zinnhardt has been for the North Carolina men’s soccer team.
“He’s that guy that doesn’t ever falter,” Somoano said – pausing between the last three words to dramatically emphasize his defender’s consistency.
In a year where UNC has struggled to find the back of the net, North Carolina has been stout on defense. Led by Zinnhardt, the Tar Heels have only allowed eight goals this season, and never more than one in a game. Sunday evening's 2-0 victory against Louisville was more of the same, as North Carolina displayed a defensive clinic to grab a vital ACC win.
On a night kicked off by senior ceremonies, the Tar Heels came out of the gates firing. An aggressive high press reaped benefits in just the first three minutes of the game, as graduate midfielder Quenzi Huerman smashed home the first chance for UNC. From then on, it was North Carolina’s game to lose.
Louisville’s offense took a long time to build up its attack throughout the game. When it seemed like the Cardinals were finally knocking on the door within the last 15 minutes of play, the Tar Heels' defense dug in.
“We knew they were going to come out there, we were up 1-0 and time was running out for them,” Zinnhardt said. “They sent everything forward and obviously we had five in the back, just tryna hold on.”
In a position where the team has often found themselves throughout the season, Zinnhardt led the North Carolina backline to its sixth shutout of the year. Defending tirelessly for the final stretch of the game, a weathered Tar Heel defense stood strong.
Zinnhardt proved his defensive prowess by deflecting crosses out of the box and timing vital tackles to suspend the Cardinals' attack.
“He can just concentrate and stay engaged for long periods of time,” Somoano said. “Other guys, they may lose their focus for a moment here or there, but he is just so dialed in and I think that obviously makes a big difference.”