The third-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels have kicked off their 2018 preseason in scintillating form. Last year’s Final Four squad was one of the top offensive teams in the nation, ranking second in goals and goals per game. If the past week is any indicator, this year’s squad will be more of the same.
The Tar Heels kicked off their exhibition campaign last Sunday with a dominant 4-0 win on the road against #18 Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers are the two-time reigning Sun Belt Conference Champions, but that was of little concern to Carlos Samoano’s side, who scored all 4 of their goals in the second half to turn a solid matchup into a rout.
On Friday, the Tar Heels hosted Stetson at their home away from home at WakeMed Park in Cary. Stetson, a team that went 7-7-2 last year, posed little threat to UNC, who got the win by the score of 4-1. While Stetson is no one’s idea of a world beater, Carlos Samoano has to be pleased with the way the Tar Heels have gotten off on the right foot offensively, particularly with all the talent they lost on the attacking side of the ball.
Carolina begins the season having lost Strikers Alan Winn and Zach Wright to graduation and superstar midfielder Cam Lindley to the MLS. Most teams would figure to take a step back in scoring production after such losses, but the Tar Heels return high-scoring Jelani Pieters, as well as sophomores Giovanni Montesdeoca and Lucas Del Rosario, both of whom showed tremendous potential in limited minutes as freshman.
On the defensive side of the ball, UNC is led by senior Alex Comsia, so long a mainstay of Carlos Samoano’s backline. Comsia led the Tar Heels in minutes played last year and was, for the second year in a row, selected as an Academic All-American. In his final year in Chapel Hill, Comsia has been selected to the Preseason Watchlist for the Hermann Trophy. He’ll be leaned on heavily, as Carolina only returns one other starter from last year’s backline, sophomore David Nelson.
UNC is favored to win the ACC and advance to a third consecutive College Cup. They finish their exhibition slate against Presbyterian on Sunday at 7 pm at Bryan Park in Greensboro. Their regular season kicks off the following week in the Carolina Nike Classic.