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.