RALEIGH- Coming off a comfortable win Tuesday at Longwood University, NC State (7-3-2) returned home to take on #1 ranked rivals UNC Chapel Hill (9-1-1). NC State would win 1-0 in front of a record breaking home crowd off of a marvelous solo goal from forward (#10) David Loera in the 53rd minute.
The game opened with slow and steady possession from UNC, a trend that would carry on throughout much of the game. After a short period of time UNC began to advance a bit deeper into NC State’s half, yet were lacking an incisive pass or cross to set up any real scoring opportunities. A couple of shots fell to UNC in this opening period, but they could never quite connect when an opportunity presented itself. State’s offense early on consisted of a long-ball approach that could never manage to find one of the forwards in space. This tug of war of possession from UNC vs counterattack from the Wolfpack carried on until the last ten minutes of the first half, when UNC began to press a bit higher up the field, causing issues for NC State’s counter. The Wolfpack began to turn the ball over while attempting to counter, including a particularly harrowing instance where a center back’s loss of possession created a 2-on-1 break that UNC were unable to capitalize on. Near the very end of the half UNC got two massive opportunities. First was a close range shot near the six yard box which was stopped with a lightning quick reaction save from the legs of captain goalkeeper (#1) Leon Krapf. In the closing minutes, an outside the box attempt from UNC’s Jelani Pieters would narrowly miss the far top corner of the net. UNC would lead the Wolfpack 8 to 1 in shots at the end of the first half, yet remained unable to find that killer ball to strike first.
With the second half came a newfound energy from both sides. Chapel Hill was able to make more of their possession at the opening of this period, with a dangerous ball swinging into the box four minutes in that didn’t manage to find a recipient. THE moment of the game came in the 53rd minute, when Wolfpack forward David Loera started a run from near midfield, carving through the entire UNC defense with ease. Loera briefly looked to lose possession before winning the ball back from the defender and putting himself through on goal. A driven shot along the turf from fifteen yards out made it past keeper James Pyle, putting the Wolfpack on top with an emphatic statement of a goal that will be remembered by all 3,229 fans in attendance at Dail Soccer Stadium for some time to come.
After Loera’s highlight-reel goal put the Wolfpack on top, UNC attempted to answer with high pressure and up-tempo offense in an effort to quickly equalize the match. They would get a few chances in this time which would miss the mark, usually high. In the 63rd and 64th minute, UNC saw two very strong chances fail to make the difference. Krapf would make an athletic leaping save to parry away a ball heading for the top left corner, before just over a minute later saving a shot by UNC’s Julius Momkus from inside the six yard box with a reflex save that would one-up his previous impressive saves earlier in the game. After NC State made a set of three substitutions late in the game, they would proceed with a solid defensive effort that would slow down the flying Tar Heel attack, allowing only three shots in the last 20 minutes. One final half-volley from UNC forward Giovanni Montesdeoca in the closing minutes would be enough to startle the Wolfpack faithful, but the shot sailed high, sealing the victory in the upset over #1 ranked UNC Chapel Hill.