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Wednesday, June 19, 2024
The Observer

Irish men’s soccer start their road trip with ACC matchup against UNC

Then-freshman defender Mitch Ferguson helps up then-junior forward Daniel Russo during Notre Dame's 2-1 win over Boston College at Alumni Stadium on Sept. 30, 2022.

Playing away from home increases the difficulty of any match, regardless of the opponent. It takes some extra resilience to win in a hostile environment, especially on the first road trip of the season. That is exactly what the Notre Dame men’s soccer team will look to do against their next opponent, North Carolina. Playing in their second ACC match and first away match of the season will be another key test for the Irish. Notre Dame will hope to respond after a disappointing 1-0 loss to Michigan State. 

After conceding a 34th-minute counterattacking goal, the Irish were unable to crack a staunch Spartan defense despite an 11-5 shot advantage. While it is easy to overreact to the first setback of the season, the Irish should remain confident in the way they have opened up 2023. Following a down year, the Irish came out the gates 4-0-1 earning a No. 10 ranking before slipping up against Michigan State.

Nonetheless, the North Carolina match will be a gut check for a Notre Dame team that experienced a number of firsts against the Spartans: trailing in a match, failing to score and losing for the first time all season. Despite dominating possession and creating chances, the Irish were not clinical enough in the loss. They will have to be on Friday.

On the other side, North Carolina has opened up the year undefeated with a 2-0-2 record. They opened up ACC play with a 1-1 draw against Virginia Tech. Graduate student forward Quenzi Huerman is the team’s leading scorer with four goals, adding an assist as well. David Bercedo, also a graduate student, plays a prominent role up front. He has yet to hit the ground running this campaign with only a goal in 14 shots, but has proven in the past to be an elite attacker. The Madrid native finished with 14 goals last season, good for third in the nation. He did that at Quinnipiac, though, before transferring to North Carolina this season.

The offensive creation of Huerman and Bercedi will be pivotal to North Carolina’s success as they face an Irish defense that has only allowed a 0.67 goals against average. The Tar Heel defense has allowed exactly one goal in every match so far. They will have to be at the top of their game against a balanced Irish attack that has seen six different scorers through six matches. They will have to zero in on junior forward Matthew Roou, who leads the Irish with five goals this season.

Tar Heel junior goalkeeper Quinn Closson took up the reins in net for his first college appearance against VCU, replacing graduate student Collin Travasos in the 15th minute. He has since started in the draw against Virginia Tech. Despite making five saves through his two appearances, he has also let in two goals. 

Notre Dame will meet North Carolina for the 13th meeting all-time, trailing in the series 3-7-2. This match will be a prime opportunity for the Irish to improve both their poor all-time record against the Tar Heels, as well as push their ACC record to 2-0. They will go to Chapel Hill hoping to do that on Friday at 7:00 p.m. on the ACC Network. 

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