With two seconds left in third quarter of the North Carolina men’s lacrosse game against No. 13 Massachusetts Saturday, senior captain Marcus Holman netted a one-on-one goal that put No. 7 UNC up 11-8 going into the fourth quarter.
What happened from that point on will leave the Tar Heels with a bad taste in their mouths for weeks to come.
Giving up four goals and not scoring any themselves in the final quarter, the Tar Heels lost to the Minutemen 12-11 in a game they dominated in stretches.
“We continued to play hard, scrappy and tough,” coach Joe Breschi said in a telephone interview. “With a team like UMass you’ve got to take advantage and score more goals.”
Breschi said that despite the loss, UNC’s attack was the reason the game was close in the first place, and didn’t want to place all the blame on them.
“They had the ball for 12 minutes to our three minutes,” Breschi said regarding fourth quarter time of possession. “That was the biggest difference in the fourth quarter.”
Making the best of the quarter’s lopsided time of possession, the Minutemen were able to keep the ball out of the hands of arguably the best attacking corps in the nation, and put all sorts of pressure on a young defense.
“When that happens you just have to make sure you take advantage of your possessions,” said sophomore attackman Jimmy Bitter. “We didn’t do that.”
It wasn’t just time of possession that hurt the Tar Heels late in the Southern Showdown in Georgia. UMass bested UNC in shots, saves and ground balls late in the game making life difficult for the Tar Heels.
Even though the Tar Heels scored three or more goals in each of their first three quarters, UNC couldn’t seem to generate much of anything on offense late in the game with the little time it did have the ball.
“We couldn’t get into a rhythm offensively,” Holman said. “Give credit to their defense and their goalie for that.”
Because the Minutemen tried to force a more one-on-one style of play from the Tar Heels, Bitter said assists were harder to come by.
But shots weren’t.
Though UNC produced 43 shots in the game, many from close range, UMass goalkeeper Zachary Oliveri stifled the Tar Heel attack making 18 saves.
“He had about five or six show-stopping saves,” Breschi said. “He was definitely hot and definitely the difference in the game.”
Bitter said that even though the Tar Heel attack frequently shot right at Oliveri’s stick, the UMass keeper played well.
As the game wound down, the Tar Heels began to adjust their shooting in an attempt to get by the hot-handed goalkeeper.
But nothing was working for the Tar Heels, who were handed their first loss of the season.
“It’s just unfortunate,” Holman said. “If two or three of those fall our way the game has a different outcome.”
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