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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: Lacrosse defense is for real

The No. 6 Tar Heels took out No. 1 Maryland Saturday.

Stepping into his team’s meeting room — which had been converted into a press room Saturday — after defeating top-ranked Maryland, North Carolina men’s lacrosse coach Joe Breschi couldn’t control himself.

Hyped on adrenaline, the coach threw an uppercut into the air and shouted before composing himself for questions about how he took out a team with such a highly-touted offense.

But the answers were all behind him. 

On the whiteboard Breschi was standing in front of were the keys to No. 6 UNC’s victory — an in-depth report on UMD’s offense and how the Tar Heels would stop them. 

It was almost as if what had just happened on the field had been magically marked onto board before the game in such a way that would tell the future. 

Let’s get this straight. The UNC defense is for real. 

For the first three games of the season, the Tar Heel defense padded its goals-against average against cupcake teams like Furman, but as the season progressed and competition got tougher, the criticism began.

After giving up 11 goals against a Princeton , despite winning the game, the likes of ESPN analyst Quint Kessenich were quick to point out that UNC lacked off-ball discipline against the Tigers prolific offense. 

What has UNC done since then?

Nothing but prove analysts like Kessenich wrong. Goalkeeper Kieran Burke will be the first one to tell you that.

Against Duke, a team that lit up Syracuse for 21 points and took down Denver with 14, the Tar Heels gave up just eight goals in regulation, many of which were in transition, not six-on-six situations.

But that’s just one game, and it ended up being a loss. That’s not enough to consider a defense legit.

In Kenan Stadium Saturday, the Tar Heels invited the top-ranked Maryland Terrapins into town and held a team that averages 13.17 goals to eight .

Before UNC handed them an 11-8 loss — the first of their season — the Terrapins had scored double digits in every game this season highlighted by a 16-point game against Syracuse and a 10-point game against Duke, both of which were top-10 teams .

Shutting down Mike Chanenchuk’s strong shot, the Tar Heel defense gave up just one goal at the hands of Maryland’s top scorer and one of the top-ten goal scorers in the nation .

Locking down freshman stud Matt Rambo who has 17 goals this season, Austin Pifani proved that he himself is a young stud who should be turning heads.

Bullying Maryland’s attackers, physical, athletic short-stick defenders like Ryan Creighton and Mark McNeill helped UNC force eight turnovers.

Standing on his head, Burke recorded another double-digit save game and stopped more shots than he let through. 

But all the individual performances were just a portion of what made the Tar Heels successful against Maryland. A combination of in-game communication and thorough game planning allowed individuals to stand out and make plays. 

Putting two poles on Maryland’s best dodgers from up top, UNC limited the effectiveness of strong dodgers from the midfield and forced them to adjust their offensive strategy.

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And don’t expect this to be an isolated score line.

Handing the Terrapins their first loss of the season, all UMD coach John Tillman could do was tip his hat to the Tar Heels and admit that defenders like senior Jordan Smith , or as he called him “No. 31”, should get more credit.

As he, and the rest of the nation, should.