DURHAM — Duke had a senior All-American. North Carolina had a freshman.
The odds weren’t in their favor, but the No. 5 Tar Heels and face-off specialist Stephen Kelly were poised to contain the No. 4 Blue Devils’ Brendan Fowler in an attempt to get the lacrosse team’s first ACC win of the season.
And for four quarters they did just that, but in an overtime game UNC needed more than four quarters of stellar play at the X, as it lost 9-8 at Koskinen Stadium Saturday.
“That’s one of the parts of the game where it’s a tough outcome,” senior defenseman Jordan Smith said. “You don’t really know who’s going to win them all. (Kelly) did a really great job.”
Coming into the Tar Heels rivalry game against Duke, the team had a history of troubles against Duke’s face-off specialist.
Last season Fowler gave one of UNC’s all-time best face-off men, R.G. Keenan, fits winning 42 of the 61 face-offs in two games and forcing UNC to come up with creative, yet ineffective, ways to approach him.
Saturday that was not the case.
“(Kelly)’s never faced Fowler before, so I think Fowler was trying to figure him out,” coach Joe Breschi said after admitting he wasn’t sure how Kelly was so successful.
Keenan, who has been out due to injury, was replaced by Kelly who was determined to not be another UNC face-off man to fall victim to Fowler’s quickness at the draw.