Men’s lacrosse takes No. 8 NCAA tournament seed

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Freshman midfielder Ryan Creighton attempts to dodge a Notre Dame defender. Creighton had two goals in the win against the Fighting Irish.

After jumping to a 6-2 lead in the first three quarters against Maryland in the ACC Tournament semifinals in April, the North Carolina men’s lacrosse team looked as if it would be soon playing for its 12th conference title.

But 15 minutes and a 5-0 Terrapin run later, the Tar Heels’ championship dreams were dashed, and UNC (10-5) fell 7-6.

North Carolina’s fourth-quarter heartbreaker illustrated the importance of playing a complete game — something coach Joe Breschi is hoping his team can accomplish when the No. 8-seeded Tar Heels host Maryland (10-4) on Sunday at 1 p.m. in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

“One of the things that we have to continue to improve on is finishing games, finishing plays,” Breschi said. “We played great for 45, maybe even 48 minutes against Maryland, but we failed to finish our opportunities.”

The postseason game will be the third time the Tar Heels have taken on Maryland this season. UNC beat the Terrapins 11-6 when the team traveled to College Park for a regular season game in March.

North Carolina’s familiarity with the Terrapins will help the Tar Heels prepare for the matchup, but Breschi said the biggest benefit for UNC is the game’s location. The Tar Heels are 20-1 at Fetzer Field under Breschi.

“From a preparation standpoint, it’s certainly helpful because you know their personnel very well,” Breschi said. “The benefit of us playing at home is a huge opportunity for us. The biggest advantage is the heat, in Chapel Hill, on our home field.”

The top eight seeded teams in the NCAA tournament earn the privilege of hosting a first-round tournament matchup. The Tar Heels clinched a playoff berth and the No. 8 seed with Friday’s overtime victory against then-No. 3 Notre Dame.

After giving up three goals in the final minute and a half to allow the Fighting Irish to tie the game, the then-No. 12 Tar Heels once again found themselves in a compromising situation.

It was senior night at Fetzer Field, but freshman Pat Foster would be the answer to the Tar Heels’ prayers. With just under three minutes to go in the first overtime period, the attackman scored the game-winning goal to lift UNC to a 9-8 win against Notre Dame (10-2).

“Our plan was just that I was going to go behind (the goal) with Billy (Bitter), and just kind of run a two-man game,” Foster said. “I just kind of took the eye to the goal and shot it and just let it fly.”

Breschi said his team will focus on eliminating late-game slipups in order to stop its opponents’ fourth-quarter comebacks.

And with a national championship on the line, there’s no better motivation, he said.

“You can call this a revenge game, you can call it kind of a rubber match,” Breschi said. “But the fact that we’re at home and the idea of finishing a 60-minute game is what we’re really shooting for, certainly now that it’s the playoffs and it is a win-or-go-home mentality.”

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