Third-ranked North Carolina (9-1) won its seventh consecutive game on Saturday over the plucky #19 Virginia Tech Hokies. Carolina, so defensively dominant over the last month, was strongly tested by a Hokie team that were the better side for much of the game in Durham.
Carolina drew first blood in the 21st minute on a goal by senior striker Nils Bruenig. Bruenig’s goal game courtesy of a fabulous play by Jelani Pieters, who broke free in the box courtesy of a strong pivot move to beat his defender and slid a pass across the face of goal to Bruenig, who tapped it in while being undercut by a Hokie defender. Carolina appeared to have doubled their lead minutes later when Milo Garvanian found the net, but the goal was disallowed for a Carolina foul.
That disallowed goal seemed to deflate the Tar Heels, who struggled to generate offense for the remainder of the half. The Hokies, however, kept the pressure on the Tar Heels and got the equalizer in the 45th minute on a header by Vincent Jackson. At the half, the Hokies had outshot the Tar Heels 8-5 and had a 3-0 advantage on corners, a rarity for a Carolina squad that had conceded the fewest shots of any team in the ACC.
The second half featured chances for both sides, but the Tar Heels controlled the run of play, generating far more shots and possession. Eventually they found the winner in the 84th minute when Bruenig slipped a shot from the edge of the box into the left side of the net. Hokie keeper Mathijs Swaneveld was slow to react and Bruenig’s accuracy punished him. The Tar Heels ended the game by outshooting the Hokies 13-10 (4-2 on goal).
Carolina’s goalless streak ends at 517 minutes, one of the longest in school history. They were solidly tested by an aggressive Hokie squad that frequently challenged UNC’s vaunted defense. VA Tech generated a season-high number of shots against the Heels, and also won several free kicks in dangerous positions. Goalkeeper James Pyle had more work to do than usual, particularly in the early stages of the match, when he had to make a tough save against an unmarked Hokie striker.
The Tar Heels will look to extend their winning streak to eight on Tuesday night at Old Dominion (7-3-1). The match will take place at 7:00 pm.