CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Top-seeded North Carolina overcame a pair of one-goal deficits on Sunday at Fetzer Field to claim a 3-2 win against Coastal Carolina (18-4-0) in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Enzo Martinez tallied the game-winner with a a free-kick strike in the 69th minute to propel UNC to the third round where Carolina will take on No. 16 Indiana on Nov. 27.
The nation’s leading scorer lived up to his reputation on Sunday as Coastal Carolina’s Ashton Bennett, who came into the contest with 22 goals, put the Chanticleers up 1-0 in the opening 45 minutes of play.
The teams battled throughout the opening period with Carolina holding an early advantage as the Tar Heels registered four shots in the opening 11 minutes. Billy Schuler broke through and put a shot on frame in the 11th minute that was deflected out for a corner before Jordan Gafa’s ensuing header was punched over for yet another corner.
Coastal would counter with an attack of its own less than three minutes later when Ricky Garbanzo had a shot from eight yards out that goalkeeper Scott Goodwin was able to save to keep the match scoreless.
The teams would trade punches throughout the rest of the first half until Coastal Carolina’s Pedro Ribeiro flicked a ball around the Tar Heel defense to a cutting Bennett. Goodwin came charging out of his net but Bennett was able to get a touch on the ball and chip it over Goodwin and into the goal.
The score remained 1-0 heading into the break as the Tar Heels trailed at halftime for just the second time this season. Carolina also trailed, 1-0, against Oregon State on Sept. 2 before rattling off five goals in the second half for the win.
Carolina would come out much more aggressive in the second half, pressuring the Chanticleers and controlling possession. The Tar Heels broke through in the 50th minute when they were awarded a free kick after a CCU foul in the defensive third.
Goalkeeper Scott Goodwin took the free kick inside his own box and found Ben Speas on the left flank. Speas settled the ball and raced toward the middle of the field and unfurled a shot from the top of the box that managed its way through the defense and rolled across the goal line to equalize.
Coastal Carolina struck back less than two minutes later when TeeJay East made a run behind the Tar Heel defense after a flick pass from Bennett. East touched the ball to his right before firing a shot past Goodwin to put Coastal back on a one goal lead at 2-1.
Senior captain Kirk Urso pulled the score back to even exactly 39 seconds later with the strike of the night. Mikey Lopez took a shot from 20 yards out that was blocked by the Chanticleer defense. The rebound bounced out to the right flank where Urso settled and spun back toward the goal. Urso unleashed a shot from 30 yards out that found its way to the far post upper 90 to tie the match at 2-2.
In the 69th minute the Tar Heels were mounting a charge and Matt Hedges found the ball at the top of the box. With his back to the goal, Hedges attempted to flick a ball over his shoulder but a Chanticleer defender was there to knock it down but was whistled for a handball just outside the box.
The trio of Enzo Martinez, Ben Speas and Kirk Urso stood over the free kick for the Tar Heels. After a slight hesitation from Urso and Speas, Martinez ran on and struck a shot toward the far post that the Coastal Carolina goalkeeper was unable to get to as the ball found the back of the net to give UNC a 3-2 advantage.
The Tar Heels would control possession over the final 20 minutes until Coastal Carolina mounted one last rally. As the clock counted down the final seconds the Chanticleers earned a throw-in near the corner flag.
The ball was sent into the box and flicked far post where Luis Faz attempted a header from inside the six yard box. Goodwin deflected the header before chaos ensued and the ball was eventually pounced on by Goodwin. The junior goalkeeper cleared it to propel Carolina into the third round of the NCAA tournament.