Current Date: Wed, 12 Mar 2014 07:40:28 -0400
It was a heartbreaking loss.
A 6-1 lead after the first quarter turned into a 12-11 loss in the quarterfinals of last year’s NCAA tournament, and with that, the career of the greatest offensive threat in North Carolina men’s lacrosse history was over.
In 2014 Marcus Holman won’t be around to lead the team by scoring 37 goals or dishing out a team-high 43 assists, like he did a year ago.
He won’t be there to score a game-winning goal in the final minutes against Duke during the ACC tournament to carry the Tar Heels to their first ACC Championship since 1996.
When the Tar Heels take the field on the road against Furman to open their season Sunday, they will have a huge void left vacant by that Tar Heel legend and recently named Team USA attackman.
But no one player can fill those shoes. Coach Joe Breschi knows that.
“I think at the end of the day an offense needs six guys who are all on the same page,” Breschi said.
The coach added that with juniors Chad Tutton, Joey Sankey and Jimmy Bitter all stepping into leadership roles in the offense, the team is more well-rounded and less dependent on any one player.
“(We’ve had) a different approach this year,” Sankey said about the new division of leadership. “I don’t think any one person feels the need to be that guy. I think that’s what’s special about this group.”
A special group well mixed with both experienced and young players.
Breschi said that he plans on having at least six freshmen making an impact on this year’s team including the likes of Canadian midfielder Shane Simpson, attackman Luke Goldstock and defenseman Austin Pifani.
With a slew of talented but young players, having a strong group of leaders in Holman’s stead will be even more important.
And Breschi said senior Ryan Creighton has been one of the primary locker room leaders who have made the transition to 2014 smooth.
“He’s embraced (his captaincy),” Breschi said. “He’s a terrific leader. He’s a warrior on the lacrosse field. He brings his lunch pail and pushes the guys to be better.”
Creighton said that by playing behind Holman for so long he learned that leading by example and always bringing his A-game goes a long way.
“What I’m trying to do is get the players to rally around me and the coaches and different upperclassman players and do it together,” Creighton said.
That blue-collar mentality may not seem apparent when flashy attackers like Sankey begin diving around defenders to make goals in the clutch or when sharpshooters like Bitter ping the corner of a goal.
But it’s that hard-working, team-oriented mindset that the Tar Heels will use to try to seek redemption for last season’s bitter early exit in the NCAA tournament.
“Every time I hear about that loss, it still makes me feel upset and just has a really strong effect on me,” Sankey said. “I think that’ll help us this year.”