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The Daily Tar Heel

Preview: No. 14 UNC men's soccer prepares for matchup with No. 4 Wake Forest


UNC graduate midfielder/forward Quenzi Huerman (11) takes a corner kick on Dorrance Field on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023, in the UNC men's soccer game against Florida Gulf Coast.

Headed into this weekend, the North Carolina men's soccer team is stuck in the middle of the pack of the ACC standings with a 1-1-3 conference record.

On Saturday, UNC will have a chance to add another ranked win to its belt. The No. 14 Tar Heels are preparing for one of their toughest matchups of the season against No. 4 Wake Forest — the team's highest-ranked opponent thus far.

The Demon Deacons have been rolling, currently riding a six-game win streak and an impressive 7-0-1 record in their past eight matches.

Here are three keys for the Tar Heels if they hope to pull off a major conference upset in Winston-Salem:

Control the shot battle

A major factor to Wake Forest’s recent success has been its ability to get off shots. The Demon Deacons' 15.08 shots per game ranks third in the ACC — including a staggering 45 shots in their past two matches against Wofford and N.C. State. During its six-game win streak, Wake Forest has averaged nearly nine more shot attempts per game than its opponents.

North Carolina boasts a commanding offense as well, with the tandem of graduate forwards Quenzi Huerman and Martin Vician ranking second and fifth, respectively, in the ACC in total shots this season. 

The Tar Heels fare well when they are aggressive offensively. This was seen in UNC's 1-1 draw with then-No. 10 Notre Dame, in which North Carolina outshot the Fighting Irish 10-1 in the first half. Seven of those shots were taken by Vician or Huerman, with one of those being Vician's goal in the 34th minute.

Forechecking to bring pressure high up the field will be pivotal in disrupting Wake Forest’s ability to generate offense, and creating turnovers in the offensive zone can give UNC the edge in scoring opportunities.

In the past 358 minutes of conference play, the Demon Deacons have not conceded a goal. Wake Forest goalkeeper Trace Alphin ranks third in the ACC in both save percentage and goals against average, so the Tar Heels will need to attack the net relentlessly to generate scoring opportunities.

Play the complete 90 minutes

Senior midfielder Ernest Bawa said he believes that when the Tar Heels are clicking, they are the best in the country — but fans have yet to see a complete game from North Carolina.

Head coach Carlos Somoano has been stressing the importance of consistency this season, and it's evident that UNC's lulls in intensity have held the team back.

Going back to the Notre Dame game, the Tar Heels surrendered a late-game goal after an explosive first half. North Carolina's only loss of the season came against Syracuse when a sloppy first half gave the Orange a 1-0 lead. Even the upset victory against Duke was far from perfect, with the Tar Heels struggling to maintain pressure late in the game. Despite allowing 14 shots in the second half, UNC managed to scrape by with a win thanks to sophomore goalkeeper Andrew Cordes' four saves.

North Carolina cannot let its foot off the gas against Wake Forest, a team that plays with high speed and great intensity. In their last match against Wofford, the Demon Deacons accounted for all the game’s shots and corner kicks for the first 20 minutes, outshooting the Terriers 14-1 in the first half. Simply put, if Wake Forest gets hot, it will be a steep uphill battle for UNC.

Contain Roald Mitchell

Demon Deacon forward Roald Mitchell has been Wake Forest’s primary offensive weapon this season. He's netted seven goals in 13 games — at least four more than any of his teammates.

North Carolina's defense must keep its eyes on Mitchell, especially when he is off the ball and seeking to finish crosses. His impressive ball skills make him dangerous on the ball as well. He also has a good shot, especially on penalty kicks —  he scored two of his goals off of penalties en route to a hat-trick against Furman.

The 2022 second-team All-ACC selectee ranks seventh in the conference with 2.54 shots per game. If the Tar Heels want to come out with a victory, slowing Wake Forest's best forward will be crucial.


@dthsports |

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