MT. PLEASANT, S.C. -- Junior Rob Lovejoy made his 2012 debut Saturday night at College of Charleston (6-8-0) and made an immediate impact as he tallied a hat trick in No. 2 UNC's (11-1-1) 3-0 win.
After missing the first half of the season due to offseason surgery, Lovejoy came on as a substitute in the 31st minute and needed less than 10 minutes to make his presence felt.
Carolina earned four straight corner kicks in the 37th minute before finally breaking through on the fourth attempt.
Danny Garcia's inswinging corner nearly crossed the end line before Jordan Gafa headed a ball toward the middle of the box. Jonathan Campbell headed the ball far post but it was deflected before Lovejoy tipped home the game's opening goal.
Less than three minutes later Lovejoy struck again. The junior forward corralled a loose ball in the attacking third and dribbled into the box on the right flank past a Cougar defender.
Lovejoy tapped the ball to his left and struck a left-footed shot that skipped into the goal in the 41st minute to put Carolina in front 2-0.
The two-goal lead would hold up into halftime as the Tar Heels kept possession throughout and held a 9-1 shot advantage at the break.
Carolina played its suffocating style of play in the second half and maintained possession before Lovejoy struck again in the final minutes.
The Greensboro, N.C., native ran onto a free ball 25 yards from goal and broke in on the goalkeeper on the left flank.
Lovejoy unleashed a shot that found the back of the net once again to put the Tar Heels in front 3-0.
The hat trick was the first by a Tar Heel since Alex Dixon tallied three times against Stetson on Oct. 18, 2009.
The Tar Heel defense notched their fourth straight shutout Saturday night to improve to 11-1-1 on the year. Carolina ran its unbeaten streak to seven straight matches.
Goalkeeper Scott Goodwin posted his 10th clean sheet of the year as he turned away the Cougars lone shot on target.
Up next for the Tar Heels is a No. 1 vs. No.2 battle at Maryland next Friday, Oct. 19 at 6 p.m. on ESPNU.