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Top-ranked Terps men's soccer team ready for showdown with No. 2 North Carolina

With a one-goal lead heading into the final minutes of its game, Maryland pushed the ball into Colgate's territory hoping to get one more score to solidify its lead.

The team congested the Raiders' goal, and Terps teammates David Kabelik and John Stertzer were able to find an open Patrick Mullins, who was able to sink the second goal in the 85th minute of Tuesday's game.

Mullins, a junior forward and the team leader in goals (eight), assists (seven) and points (23), and striker Jake Pace said the No. 1 Terps' (12-0-1, 5-0 ACC) celebration lasted briefly, however, as the team quickly turned its attention to its match against No. 2 North Carolina (11-1-1, 4-0-1 ACC) Friday night at Ludwig Field.

"We've been waiting for this game for a long time, since we saw them win the national championship last year," said Pace, a redshirt junior. "We really want to get up on them early and make sure we play our game.

"Everybody's getting excited for it, and you can already tell the vibe's a little different in the locker room."

Friday's game will not only be a contest between bitter ACC rivals and the No. 1 and No. 2 team in the nation; it will also be a matchup between the country's best defense in North Carolina and the nation's best offense in Maryland.

The defending national champs have shutout 10 teams this season, while the Terps have scored two or more goals in all but one game. The team is averaging 2.85 goals this season, while the Tar Heels are allowing just 0.22 goals this season.

"They're a great attacking team and they're a great possession team, so you have to be careful when you pick your times of pressuring the ball," Mullins said. "Then again, they have a really solid back line; they don't let in too many goals, so we're going to have to be pretty exact in our finishing and precise in the final third.

"I think if we concentrate on our game and focus on what we have to do ... I think we'll be fine."

Maryland will have to bring its best defensive effort of the season against a North Carolina team that has five players with multiple goals this season. And as Mullins said, pick the appropriate times to attack the Tar Heels' defense.

Maryland will look to use its five-game home winning streak dating back to 2002 against North Carolina in hopes of securing the ACC regular-season title this year.

Last season, North Carolina won the ACC regular-season crown and ACC championship en route an NCAA championship.

In their regular-season matchup in Chapel Hill, N.C., the Terps tied the Tar Heels 1-1.

With two games left in ACC play, the winner of Friday's match will be in control of the conference's top seed in the regular-season standings.

"We're used to the magnitude of games," Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski said. "I think the key thing is you always want to be aware of the significance of the game, but you want to focus on the substance of playing.

"We know what's at stake, but we can't be outcome-oriented. We need to concentrate on the details of the game, and we've got to trust our preparation and our set of skills will give us a chance to succeed."

rwalker@baltsun.com

twitter.com/Rhiannon_Walker

The original version of this story included an incorrect score for last season's Maryland-UNC game. The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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