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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC men's soccer advances to ACC Tournament semifinal with upset win over Wake Forest

UNC graduate student forward Martin Vician (9), sophomore midfielder/forward Parker O'Ferral (21), and senior midfielder Ahmad Al-Qad (34) celebrate after Vician hits first goal of game against Notre Dame on Friday, Sept. 15, at Dorrance Field.

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. 

Finally, a third chance in a matter of minutes was prevented by a heroic save from Cordes. With another one-on-one with a Wake Forest striker, Cordes emphatically shut down the Deacons' best chance of the night. Coming off the line to fling his body into the approaching striker, the redshirt sophomore blocked the shot before it could even be created. 

“The second half is not how we wanted to play,” head coach Carlos Somoano said. “I think we saw a little bit of fatigue from having a Wednesday game. [Wake Forest] did not play wednesday and thats the advantage of getting the bye.”

The ensuing 30 minutes left of the game was constantly dominated by Wake Forest possession, threatening the Tar Heel defensive third. Yet, despite outshooting North Carolina 6-1 in the second half, the Demon Deacons were never able to find their equalizer. 

“We knew it was going to be a very very tough 45 minutes.” Bercedo said. “But finally we said ‘Ok. this is what we want,’ and we want to win and move into the next round. So we pushed eachother and finally we got it.”

Continuing to battle until the third whistle sounded, the UNC defense did just enough to eke out the 1-0 victory on the road. Continuing in their tournament run, the Tar Heels will travel to face No. 6 seeded Syracuse in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament on Wednesday, Nov. 8.


@dthsports |

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