For the first time in six years, North Carolina’s men’s soccer team gave up a goal to Virginia. But the Tar Heels still managed to extend their unbeaten streak to eight games over the Cavaliers in that span.
UNC’s Tyler Engel and Virginia’s Eric Bird traded second-half goals, and solid play by both goalkeepers through two overtimes preserved a 1-1 tie Saturday night at Fetzer Field. It was enough for UNC (13-4, 5-2-1 ACC) to claim the third seed in next weekend’s ACC men’s soccer championship. The Tar Heels will host Louisville in a quarterfinals match at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Virginia (9-5-2, 3-3-2) dropped to the eighth seed and will host Virginia Tech in a first-round game at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Seventh-seeded Duke will host 10th seed N.C. State in the other game Wednesday.
UNC had won seven in a row, the longest current streak in the nation, and owned six wins and a tie over the Cavaliers since a 1-0 loss at the Tar Heels’ Fetzer Field in 2008. That was also the last time Virginia had scored a goal against UNC.
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The streak ended at the 68:23, when Bird intercepted a faulty clearing pass and saw his shot from 20 yards glance off the head of UNC defender Jonathan Campbell and into the back of the net. It was Bird’s team-leading fifth goal and the first allowed by UNC goalkeeper Brendan Moore in 659 minutes and 27 seconds, spanning eight games.
That goal offset Engel’s fifth goal of the season, which came at the 50:06 mark on a corner kick. The initial kick by Omar Holness was headed out by a Virginia defender, but Campbell settled the ball outside the penalty area and fired from 20 yards. Engel, positioned in front of the goal, deflected the ball into the left corner of the net.
Andy Craven, who leads the ACC with 11 goals, had chances late in regulation and in each overtime to win it for the Tar Heels. His flying header in the 80th minute went just barely over the right corner of the net.
Late in the first overtime, he got on the end of a long ball from Verneri Valimaa, beat his man one-on-one on the left flank and headed for goal. But Virginia’s Todd Wharton ran him down, jarred the ball loose and was not called for a foul for taking down Craven, much to the shouted protests from the UNC bench area. Engel subsequently earned a yellow card for complaining about the no-call.
“He didn’t get the ball but got a lot of me,” said Craven, who along with Engel and Moore were among 10 players honored on senior night. “It was a shoulder-to-shoulder. But if you don’t make an attempt to get the ball … I guess it can go either way.”
UNC coach Carlos Somoano had a similar view. “From where I’m standing, on the bench, it looked like he didn’t make a play on the ball,” Somoano said.
Craven had another great chance near the end of the second overtime. He got off a diving header off Campbell’s pass from the left wing, but Brown tipped it around the post for his fourth save of the night.
“I kind of saw it going in in my head,” Craven said. “But sometimes you have to applaud the keeper. He’s got a big frame, 6-(foot)-5. He made a big save on Tyler in the first half, too.”
Brown finished with four saves, while Moore had three for UNC, which outshot Virginia 15-11, although the Cavaliers had a 5-3 edge in the overtimes.
“Nobody likes to tie,” Virginia coach George Gelnovatch said. “But it was a hard-fought ACC game. If you can come in here and get a point in the standings, it’s OK.”