Senior attackman Jeff Sonke scored five goals and added an assist, and the Tar Heels erased a three-goal deficit with a strong third quarter to fend off Fairfield 12-7 in their opening game.
And Haus, who was an All-American defenseman at UNC from 1980 to '83 and spent the past two seasons as head coach at Johns Hopkins, finally completed the game the program has been anticipating since his hiring in June.
"It feels great," Haus said. "I told the kids it feels great to be back in Chapel Hill. It feels great to be standing in the locker room with these guys. And obviously it feels great to come away with a win, but at the same time we have some work ahead of us -- it's pretty obvious."
It was painfully obvious as the Tar Heels (1-0) struggled in the first half, dropping simple passes, rushing their shots at times and looking lost on defense. After Peter Stanley found Matt Buecker for an extra-man goal with 14:01 in the third quarter, Fairfield had a 5-2 lead.
Sonke answered with 9:13 remaining on an extra-man goal off an Andrew Lucas assist, but the Stags' Troy Bamann found the back of the net 30 seconds later to reclaim a three-goal advantage.
The Tar Heels, who outshot the Stags 44-23, then rattled off five unanswered goals during a span of 9:13 to take the lead for good 8-6. Sonke had two of those goals, including the game-tying score. Lucas recorded the go-ahead goal, and Steve Will put in the last one 30 seconds into the final quarter.
UNC's ability to control the ball on the offensive end in the second half eased the pressure on its young, inexperienced defense and compensated for the team's rocky opening 30 minutes.
"I think right at first we had first-game jitters, but we stuck together and got through it," defenseman Hunter Sims said.
Sonke finished the game a tally shy of his career-game marks in both goals and points.
The preseason first-team All-American, who led UNC last season with 33 goals and 49 points, should vie for player of the year honors this season.
"I'm out there just having fun," Sonke said. "I started having fun at the end of the game. It was a little scary there at the beginning."
But once the jitters subsided, the Tar Heels ensured their coach's first game wouldn't be a horror story.
"You're in a situation where you're down by three goals, and you're struggling -- and this is a team that's struggled in the past," Haus said. "They could have said, 'Hey, here we go, let's pack it in,' but they didn't."
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