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Wake Finds a Way Against No. 3 UNC

In a tightly contested match, Kyle Holcomb earned the Deacs an overtime victory against a tough UNC team.

Photo by Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images

In a typical Wake-Carolina game, the Deacs eked one against the visiting Tar Heels in overtime, moving them to 4-1-0 on the season, and issuing UNC their first loss. This was also the first game that UNC gave up a goal this season, as Kyle Holcomb’s header was the first ball to cross the Carolina goal line dating back to last season. The Deacs will be thrilled to get a big win like this in such dramatic fashion, and they’ll be happier to inflict it on a big rival.

UNC tried to change up their approach tactically to get after Wake, and early on it was working very well for them. They pressured very intensely, much like Clemson did in the midweek game, which seemed to overwhelm the Deacs early. However, they were able to grow into the game. Wake should have put one in the net fairly early on, as Cristian Escribano put a good ball in from the right side of the field on the ground, with both Isaiah Parente and Calvin Harris converging on it. However, the two ran into each other and failed to get a shot away.

Wake would begin to control the game later in the first half and nearly got on the board again after some lovely build up play with about 19 minutes to go. Calvin Harris held off a defender and strode forward, finding Holcomb who passed back to Takuma Suzuki, who found Machop Chol on the wing, who was able to get past Milo Garvanian despite losing the ball between his feet, but his shot flashed wide. Harris nearly made something happen by himself a couple minutes later, striding inside and hitting a shot low and with pace toward Alec Smir’s goal, but just wide.

The first half also saw the long awaited return of Justin McMaster, who would come in for Chol to an ovation from players on both teams. He had been out with a long term knee injury since last season, and made his first appearance this season, playing for 29 minutes in total.

The Deacs went into the half without a goal despite some decent chance, and this played right into Carolina’s hands. In the second half, UNC was able to play the stifling, counter attacking game that they love to play, limiting Wake to almost no chances until very late. With 8 and a half minutes to go, Harris found Holland Rula on the left flank, who cut back inside, put it across to Chol, who was able to wriggle out of the reach of five Carolina defenders, and cut the ball back to David Wrona, who could not find a way through Smir under significant pressure.

The Tar Heels were almost able to steal this game in regulation, however, as they created two late chances. In the first Santiago Herrera was able to get the ball back to Victor Olofsson, who found Johnathan Jimenez, who was able to hold off a defender and get the ball through to Jacques Bouvery, who shot it over the crossbar from just inside the area. UNC were still without a shot on target until their final chance of the game, which came with less than a minute remaining. The Tar Heels were able to build up their attack from the left, with great interplay between Garvanian and Jimenez, before finding Herrera at the top of the box, who fired a venomous shot that a diving Andrew Pannenberg was able to parry away.

After this late drama the game headed to overtime, with a golden goal deciding which team would head home with the win. The Deacs nearly scored two and a half minutes in, when a header from a corner landed at the feet of UNC defender Filippo Zattarin, who tried to clear it but sliced it back at his own goal, putting it just over the crossbar. On the following corner attempt, the ball sat up in the six yard box for Nico Benalcazar, who could only loop his header over Smir and onto the top of the crossbar.

With 3:40 on the clock, Wake would find the winning goal. Harris received the ball in a central position from Suzuki, then passing back to Holland Rula, who played it forward to Omar Hernandez, who sent in a beautiful cross to Kyle Holcomb. Smir came off of his line too late, and he and the other UNC defenders could only look on in agony as Holcomb’s header bounced twice before crossing the goal line, giving Wake a needed 1-0 win against their in-state rivals.

In games like these, it is so difficult to pick a man of the match, because there weren’t many points in the game where players were called upon individually and showed that in this game they were superior to their peers, excluding the goal by Holcomb. The defense was immaculate, with Holland Rula being particularly good, Suzuki and Parente were both very solid in the middle, Omar Hernandez looked sharp and put in a great ball for the goal. But really, the man of this match has to be Kyle Holcomb. When a player is called upon in a big spot to deliver a goal, and he does, and that wins the team the goal, it is difficult to say that he wasn’t the man of the match.

Wake returns to action on Friday at 6:00 PM, paying a visit to Duke.