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The Daily Tar Heel

No. 3 seed UNC men's soccer bests Memphis, 2-0, in NCAA tournament second round


UNC sophomore defender Charlie Harper (18) gets a save with a header during the second round of the NCAA men’s division one soccer tournament against Memphis on Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023, at Dorrance Field.

The No. 3 seed North Carolina men’s soccer team (11-3-6, 2-3-3 ACC) knocked out Memphis (11-5-3, 4-4-0 AAC) 2-0 in its opening game of the NCAA tournament, Sunday at Dorrance field. 

Despite losing the ACC Championship last Sunday, the Tar Heels still earned the No. 3 seed, granting them a first-round bye and the ability to play at home. UNC is competing for its third national championship with its latest coming in 2011. 

The Tigers lost in the AAC conference semifinals against future ACC member SMU. Despite the loss, Memphis earned an at-large bid and defeated SIUE, 2-1, in the first round, to secure the program’s first NCAA tournament victory. 

A well-rested UNC side capitalized on its first chance of the game just eight minutes in. Drawing a corner after a saved shot from graduate forward Martin Vician, the Tar Heels chose to play the setpiece short. 

Standing a few feet adjacent to the flag, graduate winger Quenzi Huerman received the corner and whipped in a ball towards the 8-yard box. Searching for Vician around the penalty area, the Slovakian elevated to meet the cross and used a nifty flick of the head to guide it toward the back post. 

Easily fooling the Memphis goalkeeper – who stood motionless with no time to react – Vician’s 6’4” stature gave North Carolina the early 1-0 advantage.

“Our setpieces, they are like everything else we do. They require a little bit of an evolution,” head coach Carlos Somoano  said. “Because the guys on the ball are supposed to be kinda like the quarterback, and they are supposed to make reads. So they have options and then it’s kinda just reading the defense to what is available and then trying to execute.”

Holding the lone goal for the remaining 37 minutes, the Tar Heels took their lead into the locker rooms. Despite winning the possession battle 56 percent to 44 percent, and tallying five shots within the first period; the Tigers never tested UNC goalkeeper Andrew Cordes by failing to record a shot on goal. 

Only four minutes out of the break, Huerman and Vician linked up for the second time of the night. In what felt like a moment of deja vu, Huerman played a probing long ball over the top of Memphis’ backline. 

Coming to greet the lofted cross, Vician ushered another header past a sprawled-out Memphis goalkeeper, who found himself in no man’s land between the ball and goal.

“It was probably one of the worst crosses I gave [him] all year,” Huerman said. “But he was able to get a great header on it, and I think the keeper made a mistake by coming out too early.”

Scoring his second of the night, Vician now has nine goals on the season, while Huerman gained assists number five and six.

“I took advantage of [the] lack of communication on their side and just looked at the ball and tried to head it – and it went in,” Vician further explained.

Eliminating all offensive threats from Memphis, the second half followed the same structure as the first. UNC’s defense once again prevented the Tigers from recording a shot on goal – blocking multiple attempts and withstanding a total of 11 shots – to secure Cordes’ eighth clean sheet of the season. 

North Carolina will advance to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA tournament. The Tar Heels will host the winner of Yale vs. Hofstra next Sunday at Dorrance Field.


@dthsports |

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