After some late-season struggles, North Carolina appears to have its offense back on track.
Andy Craven notched his second hat trick of the season and added an assist, and Alan Winn had a goal and an assist as North Carolina shut out shorthanded James Madison 6-0 Thursday night at Fetzer Field in the first round of the NCAA men’s soccer tournament.
UNC (13-5-1) will go on the road to play No. 10 seed Charlotte at 2 p.m. Sunday in the second round of the tournament. Charlotte (14-3-1) had a first-round bye. The last time the 49ers and Tar Heels played was in the 2011 national championship game, which North Carolina won 1-0.
JMU (10-8-4) finished the game with only nine players after two red cards were assessed early in the second half Josh Grant was sent off for a high tackle on Alex Olofson in the 48th minute, and Tim Whitebread joined him on the bench in the the 62nd for a bad tackle on Winn. Four UNC goals came with JMU playing short, three of them with two men down.
UNC, which entered the match ranked seventh in the nation and first in the ACC in scoring, matched its season high with six goals and outshot the Dukes 24-2.
“We anticipated they would come in and play a compact defensive game,” UNC coach Carlos Somoano said. “I think it was very important that we not get frustrated and just play our game, not get caught up in that. We wanted to stick to our game plan without panicking or overplaying.”
Craven, the ACC scoring leader, figured in each of the first four goals. Omar Holness took a shot from 25 yards that was blocked by defender Bjarki Aoalsteinsson. But the ball caromed right to Craven, who beat goalkeeper Kyle Morton to the loose ball, maneuvered around him and scored into an empty net in the 42nd.
It took the Tar Heels less than two minutes into the second half to extend their lead. Craven got the ball at the top of the penalty area, wheeled and got off a low shot that Morton dived to deflect. Rob Lovejoy was there for the rebound and scored from an extremem angle for his third goal and Craven’s fourth assist.
“The real backbreaker for them was Robbie scoring at the start of the second half,” Somoano said. “That changed the game more so than the first goal.”
That 2-0 lead would prove insurmountable when Grant, JMU’s captain, was sent off 47 seconds later.
UNC promptly made it 3-0 when Verneri Valimaa’s long ball found Craven making a perfectly timed run behind the defense. In the 70th minute, Craven was wide open in the penalty area against the Dukes when he fielded a cross from Winn and converted for his 14th goal of the season.
Winn got his third goal of the season in the 79th, and senior Glen Long got his first of the season in the 86th.
“At the beginning, me and Rob talked how we would just interchange seamlessly,” Craven said. “Rob did a great job making runs across the field. We wanted to keep them guessing and keep changing things.”
The loss provided a disappointing end to the 38-year head coaching career of JMU’s Tom Martin, the winningest active Division I coach with 477 victories. Martin, who ranks fifth all-time in Division I victories, will turn over the reins to associate head coach Tom Foley next season. Martin totaled 359 victories in 29 years at JMU.
He also didn’t dispute the red cards.
“My kids were out of line and got stupid red cards,” he said. “But take nothing away from Carolina.
“They’re deep, they’re dynamic, and they can make a deep run (in the tournament).”