GREENSBORO, N.C. – The UNCG men’s soccer team gave third-ranked North Carolina all it wanted and came within inches of sending the game to overtime in the final minutes, but the Spartans dropped a hard-fought 2-1 contest to the Tar Heels on Monday night in front of a season-high 3,072 fans at the UNCG Soccer Stadium.
UNCG returns to action Saturday night when it hosts Presbyterian. The Spartans are in a stretch of six homes games in a span of eight games. North Carolina, which was a NCAA College Cup national semifinalist last season, improves to 3-1-0 on the season while the Spartans fall to 0-3-1 on the year.
With the Spartans trailing 2-0 heading into the final 10 minutes of the game, freshman midfielder Alex Henderson picked the perfect time to score his first career collegiate goal. Freshman Nelson Oceano won the ball in the middle and laid off a perfect pass to Henderson, who cracked it from 30 yards out into the top corner past the diving UNC goalkeeper Drew Romig to narrow the gap to 2-1.
Junior goalkeeper Jon Milligan kept the Spartans in the game in the 85th minute, coming up with the best save of the night. Zach Wright got behind the UNCG defense and was one-on-one with Milligan. He made a beautiful kick save to keep it a one-goal contest.
The save gave the Spartans one final chance to tie the game with 1:37 left in regulation. UNCG put pressure on the Tar Heels and got just its second corner kick of the night. Oceano sent a cross into the box, where freshman Sandro Bradara rose above the defenders and had a great look on goal, but his header glanced just wide of the post as the UNCG-partisan crowd was ready to roar to life.
North Carolina opened the scoring in the 13th minute of the game as it took advantage of a perfectly placed shot from 15 yards out. Alan Winn, playing his first game of the year, brought a ball down deep in the Spartans territory and was able to beat two UNCG defenders to create some space. Winn placed a perfect shot low and to the far side past Milligan for the 1-0 lead.
The Spartans took some energy from the goal and started to generate offense against the Tar Heels. Junior midfielder Matteo Busio found space at the top of the 18-yard box and fired a left-footed shot onto goal, where UNC goalkeeper Drew Romig made a diving stab to keep the Tar Heels in the lead.
Bradara tested Romig in the 28th minute as he fired a long-range shot from 40 yards out that Romig was able to punch out of harm’s away. The Tar Heels had a pair of chances in the closing minutes of the first half as Jelani Pieters and Mauricio Pineda had prime chances inside the box but UNCG defenders stepped up to thwart the effort. North Carolina held an 8-4 edge in shots in the first half but the Spartans forced Romig to make three saves in the first half compared to just one save for Milligan.
North Carolina came out in the second half and started to generate more chances, out-shooting UNCG 11-3 in the second half. The Tar Heels took a 2-0 lead in the 69th minute as Lucas del Rosario tapped home a cross from Cam Lindley for his first goal of the year.