When Gavin Petracca scored to put No.3 North Carolina up 11-2 late in the third quarter, Dartmouth defender Andy Gagel hung his head.
For the fourth time in the quarter, the Big Green had failed to clear the ball out of their own end. And for the fourth time that quarter, UNC had capitalized.
After the Big Green defense forced the Tar Heels into three missed shots to regain possession, Gagel caught a pass on the far sideline and looked to clear.
But just as he turned upfield, UNC freshman Marcus Holman met him with a crushing hit, sending Gagel flying to the turf and jarring the ball loose.
Sophomore Thomas Wood picked up the ground ball and flipped it back to Holman, who found a wide open Petracca streaking to the cage for a point-blank score.
Petracca’s goal was one of six Tar Heel tallies off Dartmouth failed clears on Friday night and capped a 10-1 UNC run that helped turn an early tie into a 15-6 UNC victory.
“The second we get that turnover we’re looking to push on offense,” senior captain Sean DeLaney said.
“We do a drill — five seconds, three steps — so you have to move it right away so that when the game comes, it’s just natural to pick the ball up and move it.”
This type of success in the riding game, in which a team’s offensive players attempt to prevent the opposing defense from clearing the ball, helped UNC change the tempo of the game, forcing Dartmouth to play the Tar Heels’ style.
“When the team’s slowing the pace down and playing zone and that sort of the thing, you want to make sure you’re riding, and our riding game is very aggressive,” North Carolina coach Joe Breschi said.
In addition to the turnovers caused by its riding game, UNC was able to control possession thanks to the efforts of its midfielders. The Tar Heels scooped up 14 more ground balls than the Big Green and won 16 of the game’s 25 faceoffs, due in part to junior Michael Burns’ 10-for-14 performance.
“Our long-stick middies and faceoff guys really stepped up,” Breschi said. “We challenged those guys to make plays and they played with toughness today, which was terrific.”
“Michael Burns was a man-child at the ‘X,’” and I was really proud his effort as well.”
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