WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The No. 7 seed North Carolina men’s soccer team (9-3-5, 2-3-3 ACC) upset No. 2 seed Wake Forest (11-2-5, 4-1-3 ACC), 1-0, in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament on Sunday evening in Winston-Salem.
Earlier this year, the Tar Heels and Demon Deacons met in conference play for a top-15 matchup. In that game, UNC suffered a 1-0 defeat, despite a career-high six saves from redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Andrew Cordes.
The beginning 15 minutes of play saw little attacking action from either side. Instead, a methodical Wake Forest offense dictated the pace of play with long periods of possession in the midfield area.
Defensive patience from the Tar Heels eventually proved worthwhile when UNC opened the scoring in the 16th minute. Winning the ball back in their own defensive half, the Tar Heels started a counterattack that eventually found the feet of senior midfielder Ahmad Al-Qaq.
From the top of the box, Al-Qaq implored a nifty body feint that shifted the ball onto his strong foot. With ample space created between him and the nearest defender, the North Carolina native ripped a curling shot that nestled into the side netting of Wake Forest’s goal.
“[Ahmad] was incredible today,” Graduate forward David Bercedo said. “Crazy goal. We needed [it], because the game was tied, was close, and we needed something like this.”
UNC went on to hold its one goal advantage for the remaining 30 minutes of the half. Withstanding multiple long balls to Deacon wingers, as well as losing the possession battle in a lopsided 62 percent to 38 percent in favor of Wake Forest — the North Carolina defense was able to bend, but not break.
Following the intermission, a refocused Demon Deacon attack created a plethora of threatening chances in the first 15 of the final 45 minutes. Opening with a leading through ball towards UNC’s goal, Wake Forest winger Garrison Tubbs spoiled his one-on-one chance with a poor shot that swung several feet wide of the post.
A few moments later, a dangerous Wake Forest corner was steered just wide of the post by a header from another shot by Tubbs.