Coming into its final home match of the season on Saturday afternoon on Senior Day, the North Carolina men’s lacrosse team was hoping to close out the regular season by achieving two distinct goals.
Those goals were to end a seven-game losing streak and to qualify for the ACC Championship.
If the Tar Heels were be able to win the game by allowing less than six goals against against No. 15 Notre Dame, this injury riddled group could still march on into the postseason.
UNC, however, was only able to accomplish one of those two feats, winning 10-9.
The contest was a back-and-forth affair that consisted of eight ties and nine lead changes. The Tar Heels were able to weather the storm against the Fighting Irish, defeating their conference foe in front of 2,908 people at Kenan Stadium.
Although emerging victorious, UNC (7-7, 1-3 ACC) lost the tiebreaker with Notre Dame and Virginia for the fourth and final spot in the ACC Championship.
Due to this outcome, the Tar Heels’ season is over. But despite the disappointing result, UNC head coach Joe Breschi was happy with his team's performance.
“I can’t be more proud of these kids,” Breschi said. “These guys never stopped fighting hard for their school, for their alumni, and for their teammates.”
The Fighting Irish scored their sixth goal with 1:17 left in the third period, essentially eliminating the Tar Heels’ postseason chances. Instead of falling apart, the team regrouped so the seniors could leave on a high note. Breschi stressed the importance of sending the seniors out with a win during one of the final timeouts.
“I said ‘Let’s win the game,'” Breschi said. “That’s what they wanted to do — just win it for the seniors.”
Saturday’s game marked the conclusion for 12 seniors on the roster. One of these seniors was team captain Chris Cloutier, who scored the final two goals to give his team one last triumph.
“You can’t ask for a better effort out of our team,” Cloutier said. “Everyone stepped up in a huge way, and I’m so proud to be a part of it.”
Cloutier finishes a decorated career tied for seventh place in goals (111) scored in school history as well as 20th in career points (149).
When the final horn sounded, it was an emotional moment for anyone wearing a blue and white uniform. The team began to commemorate a senior class that brought so much success to the program in the last four years, including the 2016 NCAA national championship and the 2017 ACC title.
“This is the second time in four years that we’ve been able to go out with a win,” Cloutier said. “If we had to end our season today, that’s how you want to do it.”
Goalkeeper Alex Bassil, a junior who finished with a career high 14 saves and blocked Notre Dame’s potentially equalizing shot with 10 seconds remaining, had high praise for the seniors.
“They’re an amazing group,” Bassil said. “They’re so diverse and they’re all such good leaders. I love everyone of them.”
Even though the season did not turn out the way the Tar Heels had hoped for, they can take solace by closing the chapter on this year with a victory.
“You end on a win, so you can always say that, and they’ve done that twice in their career,” Breschi said. “For them to leave here as champions — it's pretty special.”
As far as Cloutier is concerned, even though his time at UNC is complete, he will always remember this team as a family.
“I had a great career and its because of my teammates,” Cloutier said. “Its like a family here. It’s been that way for my entire four years. It’s been an honor to spend them with these guys.”