Current Date: Tue, 11 Mar 2014 20:32:13 -0400
The North Carolina men’s lacrosse team has faced its fair share of ranked opponents ; 8th graf this season — including two teams in the top five.
But this weekend, when the No. 14 Tar Heels travel to College Park, Md., they will face their toughest test yet in a top-ranked Maryland team that hasn’t lost a game all season.
“Anytime you play the number one team, they’re the number one team for a reason,” coach Joe Breschi said. “We take it as a great challenge for our team.”
In the last three years, the ACC rivalry between UNC and the Terrapins has been competitive.
While UMd. has gotten the best of the Tar Heels in the last three post-season meetings, UNC has won the last three regular season games between the two ACC foes.
Whenever the Tar Heels and Terrapins play, the outcome is always unpredictable, but one thing can be assured — physicality.
“There’s going to be some contact for sure. It’s not going to be for the leery-eyed,” senior captain Marcus Holman said. “It’s definitely going to be an emotional game.”
In last year’s contest, the physicality went too far, when an illegal hit from a Maryland player on then-junior midfielder Greg McBride in the last minute of the game started a fight that resulted in the ejection of two players.
McBride would prefer that that not happen again, but he did say it’s important that the Tar Heels play with emotion.
“We’re still going to be just as pumped as we were,” McBride said about this year’s game in comparison to the last. “But at the same time we’re going to be really focused on not hurting the team by getting penalties.”
Along with staying out of the penalty box, the Tar Heels will have to find a way to get the ball past 2012 All-ACC goalkeeper Niko Amato and a defense ranked third in the nation in goals against.
To Holman, the keys for UNC’s offensive success are playing fast and taking advantage of opportunities.
Holman said he thinks UNC matches up well with the Terrapins on the offensive end and stressed that the key to getting past Amato was to not worry too much about shot placement.
“If you go down that road, guys start to think too much,” Holman said. “They’re worried about placing their shot versus unloading it.”
Finishing against a team that on average gives up less than seven goals will be critical for the Tar Heels if they want to come out top in the rivalry game — a rivalry that even Holman admits he doesn’t totally understand.
“It just seems like there’s a little bit of bad blood between our teams,” Holman said. “I don’t think they like playing us, and we don’t like playing them. I can’t exactly put my finger on what it is though.”
While Holman believes Duke is UNC’s biggest rival, McBride admitted he can’t prove that their rivalry with the Blue Devils is any greater than the one with Maryland.
“I don’t think it’s a bigger rivalry by any means,” he said. “But I have a problem saying that it’s a smaller rivalry.”
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