About three minutes into the third quarter of No. 5 North Carolina men’s lacrosse team’s 20-5 blowout win against Bucknell Tuesday, senior Pat Foster received a pass around the crease from a dodging Michael Tagliaferri who was on the run.
With a defender crashing from across the crease and his back to the goal, Foster seemingly had no ability to get a shot off without getting lit up by a Bison defender.
But with poise and composure, the savvy veteran quickly cradled the ball once with his dominant right hand and, without looking behind him, released a shot from in between his legs that lifted itself just over the keeper’s left shoulder and into the net.
“Honestly, I’ve never really done anything like that before,” Foster said after his two-goal performance. “I just didn’t know how much time I had, so I flicked it through my legs and hoped for the best.”
With a hat trick against Princeton last Friday after coming in at attack to relieve Steve Pontrello in his first start as an attackman this season, Foster earned his way into the starting lineup as the third attackman, a spot that was vacated by all-time UNC points leader Marcus Holman.
Putting offensive midfielders, such as sophomore Spencer Parks, in the mix at attack, coach Joe Breschi knew he wouldn’t be replacing Holman, but instead he’d be searching for someone who could click well with the offense and help it play well despite Holman’s absence.
Thus far no attackman has been able to do that the way Foster has in the last two games.
Since Jimmy Bitter’s return to the lineup in the team’s second game against Manhattan, Spencer Parks has started three times, accumulating two goals and three assists on nine shots.
Foster matched that scoring performance coming off the bench in the Tar Heels’ 13-11 win against Princeton alone with three goals on five shots.
“It seems like he’s really comfortable right now, and his confidence is probably the highest it’s ever been,” Holman said after commentating the Tar Heels’ game against Bucknell. “Pat doesn’t need the ball in his stick to be a great player.”
Foster’s efficient finishing and ability to get open aren’t the only things he can do, either. With three assists against Bucknell the senior leader proved he can distribute as well.
But neither his finishing nor his distributing are his greatest asset to the team according to Breschi. His leadership is.
“He’s a senior. He’s been through the ringer for four years,” Breschi said. “His voice has become huge for us.”
Foster’s ability to mesh well with the likes of juniors Jimmy Bitter and Joey Sankey, who have both started and played significant roles in the offense since their freshman year, has been key for the Tar Heels in the past two games.
It’s that veteran presence that Holman took with him that Foster is now bringing back to UNC’s attack.
“You know, Jimmy and Joey are only juniors,” Holman said. “They still have a lot to learn.
“Pat’s a very smart player … It’s pretty evident when you see that he’s working his way into the starting lineup.”
Breschi wasn’t willing to admit whether or not Foster would be starting more games, but there’s no doubt that the UNC attack could use a veteran presence like his when it takes on arch-rival Duke on Saturday.
Because when the level of competition increases, savvy plays like Foster’s in-between-the-legs goal that Holman claimed was SportsCenter top 10 worthy aren’t just fine commodities to be enjoyed by ESPN’s viewers at six o’clock.
They’re a necessity.
“The competition has clearly brought the best out for that third attack spot,” Holman said. “Pat seems to be doing well.”
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