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Freshman midfielder Luke Hille celebrates his second goal against UNC-Asheville on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021 at Dail Soccer Field. NC State beat UNC-Asheville 4-0.

The NC State men’s soccer squad is coming home after a three-game road trip that resulted in a win, a loss and a draw for NC State. It included a blowout win at Longwood, a blowout loss to North Carolina and a nail-biting draw against Syracuse. The last two matches will have a crucial impact on NC State’s standings in the conference table. 

The Wolfpack is currently 5-4-2 overall and 0-3-2 within the ACC play. During this three-game road trip, the Pack went through some ups and downs through three very different games. Despite this, promising statistics and positive performances from every part of the team leaves it in a great position to close out the season. 

Stats breakdown

Through this road stint, this team has continued the trend of excellent offensive pressure and is eager to score as many goals as possible. This started with an offensive onslaught against Longwood as the Pack recorded six goals off 21 total shots with 10 on goal as well as recording six corner kicks. 

However, the next game against rival North Carolina did not go as well in terms of offensive efficiency for NC State. The Wolfpack was able to record four shots on goal out of seven total shots, but was not able to convert these into any goals. On the other side of the ball, North Carolina shot 15 times with six on goal for four goals on the Pack, with three of its four goals coming in the second half. This continues the Wolfpack’s trend of conceding goals in the second half as 10 of its 15 total goals conceded on the season have come within the second half.

Against Syracuse, NC State faced even more offensive pressure with 18 shots and six on goal recorded against it. This time, however, the Pack’s defense showed out and allowed no goals even through a heated double-overtime competition. Redshirt senior goalkeeper Leon Krapf made five saves and the Wolfpack was able to hang on in this game despite having significantly less offense than its opponent. 

Throughout these games, the Pack has had a .48 SOG percentage, a huge increase compared to the season average of .34 percent. This has been a significant improvement from its previous offensive performances and shows a positive trend that, if continued, will make the Wolfpack a formidable offensive threat. However, it still needs to be able to convert these shots into goals especially against more experienced opponents in the ACC such as North Carolina and Syracuse, which it went scoreless against. 

Defensively, the last game against Syracuse shows that the Pack has the potential to shut out conference opponents, though this is only the second game on the season the Wolfpack has recorded a clean sheet. On average, opposing teams take 11.36 shots a game, with an average of almost 4.54 shots on target through 11 games. In order for the Pack to play better defensively, it must start to limit chances for opponents.

Returning and emerging talent

Among the players that shined throughout this series of games is freshman midfielder Luke Hille, who returned to the lineup after missing six games due to injury. In the first two games of the season, Hille recorded three goals in two games, and in his return against Longwood he recorded a goal and an assist. 

On the three-game trip the midfielder had four shots and has proven to be crucial to the Pack’s offense. This positive bounce back from a month-long injury does even more to show that this freshman has a bright future on the NC State men’s soccer team. 

Another offensive presence has emerged for the Pack in freshman midfielder Noe Cabezas from Cannes, France. He scored and had two assists in the game against Longwood. In his last four games Cabezas has eight shots on goal and is another freshman who has the potential to be a consistent offensive threat for the pack. Establishing consistent and effective offense from players like Cabezas is key to creating pressure on opposing defenses and therefore goal scoring opportunities. 

Going forward

After drawing against Syracuse, the Pack has now slightly improved its conference record to 0-3-2 as it still looks for its first win against an ACC team. However, building consistent performances from offensive young stars to bring pressure and limiting opponents' chances on defense can create a formula for success for the team. 

To finish the season, NC State plays four out of its last five games back at home, three of those games against conference opponents. The only road game is a difficult one against ACC men’s soccer powerhouse Louisville followed by a home appearance against Boston College for the Pack’s last game of the season. 

These games will be crucial for determining where NC State truly stands within the ACC rankings. They will also give the Pack an opportunity to gain points in the ACC table while showing strong performances against other quality opponents and growing the squad’s chemistry and experience.