Tar Heels take down Mountain Hawks

No. 1 UNC mens lacrosse dominates in the first round of the NCAA Tournament

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UNC defenseman Jordan Smith holds off a Lehigh attackman in one of the Tar Heels’ best defensive performances all season.

When the No. 1 North Carolina men’s lacrosse team was given the fifth seed in the NCAA playoffs, the team let it feed into their underdog mentality.

But with a 16-7 win against Lehigh in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the Tar Heels proved that they are a credible threat and should not to be taken lightly.

“From the face-off X to Kieran Burke making timely save like he does,” senior captain Marcus Holman said. “It was a full team effort for sure.”

With 11 different scorers, UNC’s offense spread the ball around in ways that made life difficult for Lehigh goalkeeper Matt Poillon.

“When you see that many different shots, that many different techniques of shooting it’s hard to ger used to one kind of shot,” Poillon said. “That’s how you’ve got to beat us. You can’t beat us with just one or two men. You’ve got to get the whole team involved. I think they did a great job doing that.”

The Tar Heels went in to the second quarter with a 2-1 deficit on their hands, but by taking advantage of Lehigh’s overly aggressive defense and by creating opportunities early on in possessions, the Tar Heels took control.

“We knew coming in Lehigh’s a very physical team and they’re not afraid to let you know that,” Holman said. “We did a good job of keeping our heads.”

With poise on the offensive end and domination at the face-off X, UNC produced 53 shots, in contrast to Lehigh’s 30, and kept possession for most of the game.

There was no doubt in coach Joe Breschi’s mind that junior face-off specialist R.G. Keenan’s 15 face-off wins in 22 draws was a major reason the Tar Heels kept possession as much as they did.

“R.G. Keenan was the difference, I thought, in the first half,” Breschi said. “Any time you have the ball, it’s a great thing. R.G. has consistently given us that opportunity.”

But Keenan didn’t just win UNC the ball — he also generated offense himself.

Keenan converted numerous face-offs wins into fast breaks, producing three shots and a goal.

The win marked the last game for the Tar Heels at Fetzer Field this year, but the team’s season is far from over.

It’s just beginning.

And with a stout performance against Lehigh, Holman’s not surprised.

“I don’t think it surprises anyone on the team,” Holman said. “I’m glad that guys were able to step up today.”

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