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The Daily Tar Heel

Blindenbacher's 22 Saves Highlight Return as Starter

Two games into the season, North Carolina lacrosse goalie Kris Blindenbacher was sidelined with his second concussion of the spring after Sonke, UNC's senior All-American attackman, nailed him during a March 1 practice.

Sonke had done the same a week before the Tar Heels' Feb. 18 season opener.

No sore feelings, though.

"You've got to practice hard," Blindenbacher said.

Besides, based on his return to the starting lineup, the junior looks like his head is clearer than ever before.

Blindenbacher recorded 22 saves -- one off his career high -- and scooped up eight ground balls to help No. 19 UNC to its biggest win of the season, a 7-5 upset at No. 4 Virginia on Saturday.

"It feels great," said Blindenbacher, who tallied 20 saves and yielded 16 goals in the Tar Heels' opening two games before being replaced by senior Rob D'Urso. "I've been trying to get my confidence back and everything.

"We all practiced hard every day this week, and my goalie coach gave me a lot of confidence, telling me, 'Bring your game, bring your game. You've got it. Just see the ball.' And that's what I was trying to do out there today, and I was successful at that."

Blindenbacher looked confident and comfortable from the outset, saving three shots within the game's first six minutes. He blocked a low shot from UVa.'s A.J. Shannon on a Cavalier extra man opportunity with the Tar Heels leading 2-1 in the second quarter.

With just more than a minute to go in the opening half, he showed great awareness when he picked up a ground ball after Hanley Holcomb's shot got caught in the back of the net behind the goal.

Blindenbacher continued his dominance in the second half, recording 12 of his saves. With UNC clinging to a 6-5 lead late in the final quarter, he blocked a shot from Conor Gill at the top of the crease with a little more than 30 seconds left to set up Bobby Gormsen's goal on the other end.

"He played awesome," UNC senior defenseman Hunter Sims said. "I think the defense rallied around him. The better he started playing, the better we wanted to play. He was our backbone (Saturday). He was the man."

Blindenbacher also got loads of help from the defense, particularly Gormsen, who tied his team-high eight ground balls.

"(Blindenbacher) played very well, and I think it's important that he continue to play like that if we're going to be successful," UNC coach John Haus said. "But he also got some pretty good support in front of him. And team defense and good goalie play will take you places."

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