The North Carolina men’s lacrosse team needed only one quarter of offensive production to put away Presbyterian in its 15-5 victory Thursday night.
The Tar Heels scored six goals on 18 shots in the second quarter, topping the overall goal tally of the Blue Hose in a lopsided game that saw UNC top its season-high in goals scored.
North Carolina (8-4) was able to use its speed and accurate passing to get open looks throughout the game, finishing with a season-high of 54 shots.
But that wasn’t exactly the game plan.
“We’ve actually been working on being more patient,” junior Thomas Wood said. “Against Virginia we felt like we took some shots that we might not have taken if we had been more patient.
“That wasn’t really the thought coming in, but opportunities opened up and we took good shots.”
North Carolina was tempted to shoot by the holes in the Presbyterian zone defense. The Tar Heels connected on passes to cutting attackers and were able to shake defenders in one-on-one situations to create open lanes. And they certainly weren’t hesitant to rip shots at the goal.
“When they’re playing zone it gives you more opportunity to have your hands free,” UNC coach Joe Breshci said. “So when we did take advantage of those opportunities that were given to us, the guys took the shots.”
UNC got off to a slow start in the first 10 minutes of the game, allowing Presbyterian to tie the game at two. The Tar Heels were able to get open shots, but failed to find the back of the net, hitting posts and blasting shots just wide of the goal.
“We hit a lot of pipes but we stuck with it,” senior Billy Bitter said. “We kept shooting and eventually they started to go in.”
The Tar Heels found their rhythm on a three-goal run to end the first quarter. Two of those three goals were scored by Bitter, who recorded his 15th career hat trick at UNC.
North Carolina finally broke the game open in the second quarter on a six-goal run to close out the first half. The Tar Heels capitalized on five Blue Hose turnovers, scoring quick goals in transition to push the halftime lead to eight.
UNC slowed the pace in the second half by putting in its reserve players. The back-up Tar Heels scored four goals and used up more clock.
“With guys who don’t get to get in there as much, if you try to push the tempo too much it can get hectic in there,” Wood said. “So we just wanted to calm down, make sure everyone got their legs underneath them and we started pushing more once those guys got comfortable out there.”
Though North Carolina was beaming shots at the Presbyterian goal on the offensive end, Wood said the key to UNC’s success was in the middle of the field.
The Tar Heels won 19 of 24 faceoffs, and were able to control the ball and the tempo throughout the game.
North Carolina also picked up 53 ground balls, limiting Blue Hose possessions and keeping the ball in the sticks of the Tar Heels’ attackmen.
Wood said the massive ground ball and faceoff margin allowed UNC to dominate possession and limit Presbyterian to only five goals, which matches its best defensive performance of the season.
“If the other team doesn’t have the ball they can’t score, especially with a zone defense,” Wood said. “If you get the ball and have long possessions, it’s hard for the other team to get back in the game.”
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