Men’s soccer produced a miraculous comeback Friday night against North Carolina to finish ACC play after a 2-2 draw in their final game of the season. The Cavaliers (9-4-3, 5-1-2 ACC) were led by sophomore forward Michael Tsicoulias and junior midfielder Daniel Mangarov who netted the two goals in the second half to bring themselves level with the Tar Heels (7-4-5, 2-2-4 ACC). The result makes the Cavaliers the No. 3 seed in the ACC tournament.
The Tar Heels opened up controlling possession for the majority of the first five minutes. Ten minutes into the game, North Carolina broke through with a goal by junior forward Akeim Clarke. The goal came from a free kick in the middle of the field that led to a heading pass from junior midfielder Tim Schels that found Clarke right in front of the goal to give the Tar Heels a 1-0 lead.
A minute later, a poor pass set up a North Carolina attack that led to a shot from junior forward Ernest Bawa whose shot was punched away by junior goalkeeper Holden Brown. Virginia then stormed back with a counterattack that halted after junior forward Leo Afonso was caught offside. On the other side, the Tar Heels continued to control the pace of play creating multiple chances that forced a key clearance from senior defender Andreas Ueland.
At the 25-minute mark, the Cavaliers produced a counterattack that ended with a shot from sophomore defender Paul Wiese that went wide after a through ball from Afonso. Five minutes later, the Tar Heels produced a shot on a free kick from Clarke that was tipped over the goal by Brown. Later, Virginia freshman midfielder Albin Gashi picked up a yellow card on Clarke to halt a counterattack before it could become dangerous.
As the clock ticked down in the first half, North Carolina continued to control possession and put Virginia on its back foot as it struggled to string passes together and sustain possession with the half ending 1-0 in favor of the Tar Heels. North Carolina outshot Virgina seven to zero with three of those Tar Heel shots on target.
To open the second half, the Tar Heels pressed the attack fast after Schels found senior midfielder Cameron Fisher whose shot squeezed past Brown to double the North Carolina advantage to make the score 2-0. After the goal, the Tar Heels continued to apply the pressure, producing two shots with one hitting the woodwork and deflecting wide.
In the 55th minute, Tsicoulias responded with his first goal of the season after a lofted through ball from Wiese set him up with just the goalie to beat. The goal brought the Cavaliers within one, making the score 2-1. Tsicoulias then produced another shot a few possessions later, but this time his shot was over the crossbar.
Riding their momentum, the Cavaliers pressed the attack which then led to a penalty kick after junior midfielder Daniel Mangarov was tripped up in the box in the 58th minute. Mangarov then calmly guided his shot to the bottom left corner to tie the game 2-2 for Virginia, completely altering the momentum in favor of the Cavaliers.
A few possessions later the Tar Heels picked up a free kick just outside the box, but the cross was snatched out of the air by Brown to prevent any further threat. Brown proceeded to pick up another save a few possessions later. As the clock ticked down both teams struggled to produce good chances that truly tested the opposing goalkeepers.
With a minute left the Tar Heels were in on goal before Brown ran out to clear it away to bring the final score to 2-2.
“Tonight was a bit of a wake-up call,” Coach George Gelnovatch said. “I think we came out a little bit flat and it had been a really long time since that had been the case.”
The Cavaliers are set to face the winner of NC State and Pittsburgh Nov. 6 at Klöckner Stadium in the ACC quarterfinals.