Men's Soccer

Syracuse men’s soccer opponent preview: What to know about North Carolina

Tony D. Curtis | Staff Photographer

Johannes Pieles (right) and Syracuse look to get to the Elite Eight with a victory over No. 9 seed North Carolina on Sunday.

Unseeded Florida Gulf Coast gave North Carolina a fit in an NCAA tournament second-round matchup last week, but the Tar Heels prevailed in double overtime, 3-2. The win earned UNC a date with Syracuse, which coasted past Dartmouth, 3-0, behind Sergio Camargo’s two goals and assist. The two Atlantic Coast Conference foes meet for the fourth time in two years Sunday at 2 p.m. at Onondaga Community College’s Murphy Field, instead of at SU Soccer Stadium because of field conditions.

The winner of No. 8 seed Syracuse (12-3-4, 3-2-3 ACC) and No. 9 seed North Carolina (12-3-3, 5-1-2) will host an Elite Eight tilt against either Creighton or Providence, which stunned No. 1 seed Maryland.

Here’s what you need to know ahead of the matchup, SU’s third straight Sweet 16 appearance.

All-time series: North Carolina leads, 2-0-2 (Syracuse advanced past UNC on penalty kicks in last year’s ACC tournament, a game recorded as a tie.)

Last time they met: A Friday night battle between then-No. 3 Syracuse and No. 4 UNC, two of the country’s top offenses, ended in a scoreless tie. Syracuse owned a 5-2 advantage in shots on goal and outshot UNC, 13-6, but the closest SU came to a score was a Chris Nanco shot off the crossbar.

The North Carolina report: The Tar Heels are as deep as SU. Six players on each team have netted at least three goals. Where UNC separates itself is offensively: seven times this year the Tar Heels have scored three or more goals, including twice they have scored five or more (SU has not scored more than four in a game).

Redshirt senior forward Tucker Hume netted four goals through UNC’s first eight games. The 6-foot-5, 203-pound Division II transfer has size, skill and experience that make him dangerous. His 11-goal total last year ranked second in the conference, and his seven goals this year places second on the team. He’s flanked by Zach Wright, who’s posted five scores and seven assists, and Nils Bruening, a sophomore with a team-leading eight goals.

How Syracuse beats North Carolina: While SU’s scoring offense places only 33rd in the country, its defense is dominant. A fourth-ranked goals-against average (0.55) and a shutout percentage (0.58) that ranks tied for fourth nationwide have kept Syracuse just two wins away from a trip to Houston for the College Cup. The Orange could rely on its defense for 110 minutes then take its chances in penalty kicks.

The Orange could also try to set up Chris Nanco. When the senior forward scores, SU is 17-0 over the last four years. Sergio Camargo has come on of late — the senior transfer has four goals in SU’s last seven games after not having scored in his first nine games.

Stat to know: 11 — The Tar Heels place in the nation’s top 12 in 11 statistical categories, including goals-against average (third), assists per game (second) and shutout percentage (third).

Player to watch: Tucker Hume, forward, No. 36

Hume scored in both SU-UNC matchups last year. The first goal came off a ball passed around the box that found Hume. On the second, he tied last year’s ACC quarterfinal bout, sending it to overtime before SU advanced on penalty kicks. A Rollins College (Florida) transfer, Hume could give SU’s back line difficulties with an imposing frame and knack for scoring.

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