TIM PEELER: Men's soccer off to a strong start in ACC play
BY TIM PEELER
RALEIGH – Freshman forward Alan Sanchez knew NC State had some vacancies to fill when he arrived from Miami early in the summer. He thought he might be able to help.
And, five games into the season, the young native of Chile has been a big boost to the Wolfpack’s offense, scoring three goals in his last two games.
“I was a little nervous at first, but the first couple of games has really gotten my confidence raised and prepared me for playing in the ACC,” Sanchez said.
His scoring in recent games includes the final goal on a penalty kick in the unranked Wolfpack’s 3-1 victory at No. 1 North Carolina Wednesday night, which was both the team’s first win over the Tar Heels and the first win in an ACC opener in nearly a decade.
“I knew coming in as a freshman that I would have an opportunity to show what I can do,” Sanchez said. “It’s been really nice so far.
“My goals coming in were pretty simple: to fill the spots that were empty and make my teammates the best the can be.”
The Wolfpack (3-2) is relying on three freshmen forwards to take over the steady scoring it got the last four years from departed senior and All-ACC forward Aaron King. Freshman Jorge Mora has stepped into King’s front forward position, while Sanchez is playing more of a back forward slot. Sean Campbell is the team’s top reserve at the position. In all, there are four freshmen in the Wolfpack's starting lineup, including Garner defender Orry Powers and redshirt freshman goal-keeper Christopher Widman of Greensboro.
That’s an awful lot of young players in important positions, and Wolfpack head coach George Tarantini knows that he can’t get too excited over his team’s prospects just yet. He was thrilled with the win over the arch-rival and top-ranked Tar Heels, but he is still a little steamed over the Wolfpack’s early season losses to No. 18 South Florida at Duke’s adidas Classic and a home loss to unranked Hartford.
“Well, this is a long, long season, and we just played one great game,” Tarantini said. “It’s a good win and a big win, but we still have a lot of work to do.
“We have to find an even keel where we keep progressing. This is a very unforgivable league We have Virginia coming up Saturday and Virginia has one of its strongest teams ever.”
In fact, the Wolfpack is in a brutal stretch of games in which it will play three top five opponents in an 11-day span, with two of those contests on the road. Virginia comes to Method Road Stadium on Saturday for a 2 p.m. content, then the Wolfpack travels to Maryland, which is ranked No. 1 in three of the four major college soccer polls, for a 7 p.m. game next Saturday.
Virginia comes into this weekend’s contest with a perfect 4-0 record and has yet to give up a goal this season. The Cavs are coming off a 1-0 victory over No. 10 UCLA last weekend.
Virginia hasn’t visited Raleigh since 2003, when the Wolfpack beat the seventh-ranked Cavs 1-0.Over the last three seasons NC State has gone 7-1-3 in its home ACC games, including wins over No. 3 Maryland and No. 19 Wake Forest last season. NC State also posted a 2-3-1 mark against top-10 foes last season, and is off to a fast start in that category in 2006 after knocking off No. 1 North Carolina Wednesday night in Chapel Hill.
What Tarantini really wants to see during the stretch is some consistency, and he’ll be relying on his upperclassmen like senior midfielder Santiago Fusilier and junior El Hadj Cisse to provide it.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” Tarantini said.
You may contact Tim Peeler at email@example.com.