In the span of less than a week, the North Carolina men’s lacrosse team won and lost a game in the same place — the face-off X.
In a 16-15 win against then-No. 5 Princeton on March 9, timely face-off wins that led to fast breaks and scoring in bunches gave UNC the push it needed late in the game.
With three seconds remaining, sophomore midfielder Chad Tutton fired an overhand bounce shot into the net to give the Tar Heels their third win of the season.
But against No. 17 Duke (5-4, 1-1 ACC) on Wednesday, a dismal showing at the face-off X allowed the Blue Devils to dominate possession in an 11-8 win against No. 8 UNC (3-3, 0-1 ACC).
“You can’t get dominated at the face-off X and in ground balls,” coach Joe Breschi said. “It’s tough to put that kind of pressure on our defense on a consistent basis.”
In the game against Princeton, face-off specialist R.G. Keenan won a career-high 20 face-offs. Keenan also scored his first goal of the season and forced a turnover late in the game when UNC desperately needed one.
But in the Duke game, he was almost nonexistent.
Instead of creating fast-break goals and transition offense against the Blue Devils, Keenan allowed Duke to generate offense from the face-off X.
After going five-for-eight in the first quarter, Keenan had a dismal second quarter, losing all five of his face-offs and forcing Breschi to make a tough decision.