CHAPEL HILL, N.C.-A goal in the 22nd minute by North Carolina's Danny Garcia proved to be enough as the third-ranked and No. 2 seed Tar Heels held off seventh-seeded Duke 1-0 in the ACC Men's Soccer Tournament quarterfinals at Fetzer Field this evening. The Blue Devils shutout streak ended at 421:40.
Duke falls to 8-8-2 overall for the year and will await word Monday whether it will be picked in the 48-team NCAA Tournament field. Selections are announced Nov. 12 at 5:30 p.m., on NCAA.com. North Carolina improves to 15-2-1 overall and advances to the ACC semifinals Friday.
"My team played their hearts out," head coach John Kerr said. "They did their very best. We maximized the game plan, got the balls in the box and created opportunities. We just didn't capitalize when they fell to us and we end up paying a price because if we equalize anything can happen after that."
Duke had good possession through the opening 15 minutes and controlled much of the run of play. The first shot for the Blue Devils came from the foot of Sean Davis as he took a chance from distance. Jonathan Campbell stepped up in time to deflect the shot and allowed North Carolina goalkeeper Scott Goodwin corralled it to prevent a corner kick.
The Tar Heels started to get into a better rhythm in ensuing minutes and took advantage of Duke defensive miscue. After George Raby caught Duke in the run of play on top of the 18-yard box, he fed Danny Garcia inside the left side of the penalty area. Wide open, Garcia rifled a shot to the left corner past Duke goalkeeper James Belshaw.
"It was disappointing to give a sloppy goal away in the first half where I thought after the first 10 minutes we were doing well with possession and really in the game," Kerr said. "It's just disappointing because we have defended well all year and haven't given many goals away like that this season."
The Blue Devils regrouped defensively and did well to keep North Carolina from getting a crucial second goal. Despite good possession in the midfield, Duke struggled to find that final pass in the offensive third and headed into halftime trailing 1-0.
With North Carolina winning 38 straight games when scoring first, Duke was facing a tall task heading into the second half. However, the Blue Devils continued to try to find ways into the offensive third and started to do so in the final 20 minutes. In the second half, Duke outshot North Carolina 7-5.
Duke's defense was equally as stout, rarely letting North Carolina get free inside the penalty area. The Tar Heels' best chance of the second half came as Sam Craven put a strong half volley on net that Belshaw tipped wide of the woodwork to keep the game 1-0.
Weathering a brief storm of North Carolina shots, Duke joined the offensive fray. The Blue Devils, able to find openings in the offensive third, took advantage of a few set pieces for looks at net but could not convert. Playing with confidence, Duke's best chance of the night came with under 15 minutes from freshman Ryan Thompson. The Cary, N.C., native collected a pass from Riley Wolfe on the right flank and from 15 yards just missed the lower right corner of the goal.
"It should have been a goal, no question about it," Kerr said. "He did everything right. He opened up his foot, side-footed it. He just didn't hit the target and that's disappointing because that was a great chance. I thought that was the one. And Nat Eggleston had two really good looks when the ball fell to him in the box and normally he's a better finisher than that. And if we score those opportunities everything changes."
Sophomore Nat Eggleston got into the action as well as the ball landed at his feet in the middle of the penalty area late in the game, but his shot sailed over the crossbar. Duke fought until the final whistle, but could not find the elusive goal against North Carolina's stalwart defense.
Belshaw finished with three saves in the game, while Scott Goodwin went untested. North Carolina had a narrow 9-8 edge in shots, while Duke had two corner kicks to the Tar Heels' one.
The 48-team field will be announced during a selection show on NCAA.com, Monday, Nov. 12 at 5:30 p.m. ET.
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