Chapel Hill, N.C. - After grabbing some momentum in the second half, the Hokies looked to pull an upset against ACC rival, No. 4 North Carolina. However, the Hokies rally fell just short, as the Tar Heels earned the 3-1 victory Friday night.
In the first half, Virginia Tech (4-10-1, 1-4-1 ACC) withstood a strong offensive attack for 20 minutes, but North Carolina (11-2-1, 6-0-1 ACC) scored on their eighth shot of the half, with Jordan Gafa sinking it from 15 yards out. UNC’s Martin Murphy recovered a deflected shot by Carlos McCrary, passing it to Gafa for the first goal of the match at the end of the 21st minute. Beto Velazquez’s bid at the equalizer 30 seconds later sailed just high of the net, his eighth shot of the season. After 45 minutes of play, UNC held a 1-0 lead.
Keeper James Daly did his part in the first half keeping the game within Tech’s reach, snatching up three of UNC’s four shots on goal, limiting the damage to only one goal. Not allowing the Tar Heels to capitalize on any of their six first half corner kicks kept the Hokies motivated heading into the second half.
In the 60th minute, Carlos McCrary netted UNC’s second goal of the game off a Kirk Urso assist. In the 68th minute, Hokie Patrick Huang’s shot attempt went over the net, but his second attempt one minute later found the net, bringing the Hokies within one. Greg Cochrane fed the ball to Huang, who’s shot deflected off another player, bounding over the head of the Tar Heel’s keeper. This was Huang’s first career goal for Tech, after redshirting last season.
“I commend the effort of our boys, especially in the second half,” said men’s soccer coach Mike Brizendine. “We put a good amount of pressure on them and put ourselves in a good position to tie the game.”
With only minutes remaining in regulation, Robbie Lovejoy pushed the Tar Heel’s lead to 3-1, which proved final. Lovejoy’s shot came in the in the 88th minute from only eight yards out, his second goal of the season, off assists from Enzo Martinez and Carlos McCrary.
“North Carolina is a good team,” said Brizendine, “and they made us pay for some of our mistakes.”
James Daly was just one save shy of his single-game high this season, earning six saves in the match. Tech had more shot opportunities in the second half, only being outshot 9-7 in the second half, 19-9 on the match. The Tar Heels had the edge in corner kicks, 11-5. Patrick Huang led Tech in shots, taking three on the match, one on goal.
The Hokies return home Wednesday to challenge Radford at Thompson Field at 7 p.m. It is the first in a three game homestand to close out the regular season.
For updates on Virginia Tech men's soccer, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_MSoccer).