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The Daily Tar Heel

Sankey’s 5 goals lead UNC men's lacrosse

The UNC men's lacrosse team defeated Manhattan 21-5 at Navy Field on Sunday. The game was postponed and moved to the turf field due to snow at the end of last week.
The UNC men's lacrosse team defeated Manhattan 21-5 at Navy Field on Sunday. The game was postponed and moved to the turf field due to snow at the end of last week.

Joey Sankey is never satisfied with scoring the easy goal.

He prefers to dance behind the cage before slinging chaotic, diving shots into mere inches of space.

No angle is too small or defender too formidable to hinder the innovation and dynamism of the North Carolina men’s lacrosse team’s 5-foot-5 leading scorer.

It was this sense of defying the impossible that propelled UNC to a 13-9 comeback win against Johns Hopkins on Saturday, along with Sankey’s five-goal contribution.

“(Sankey) knows his game and what he’s good at,” coach Joe Breschi said. “He creates off the ball, has the ability to score in tight spaces and low angles and he takes advantage of the defense. He’s creative.”

As the first 30 minutes ticked away, it quickly appeared that the Tar Heels were in danger of relinquishing their two-game winning streak.

Johns Hopkins dominated statistically across the board in the first half, most importantly at the faceoff X, where the Blue Jays scooped up 13 of the 14 faceoff opportunities. In addition, UNC was outshot 22-13 and out contested in ground balls by a margin of 19-8 .

After the conclusion of the second period, the Tar Heels jogged off the field lucky to be clinging on to a 7-5 deficit.

Frustrated by the unfamiliarity of a halftime shortfall — the Tar Heels’ first of the season — UNC recognized it would need a full-throttle approach to overcome Johns Hopkins.

“We were confident going into the second half that our defense was going to pick up,” Sankey said. “We were stressing not to freak out, and we knew we had it under control. I think we showed really good composure after the rough start.”

For an attackman of such small stature, Sankey came up with big plays for the Tar Heels in the third and fourth periods. A goal from Ryan Creighton helped to chip away at the Blue Jays’ lead, and the equalizer came when Sankey lobbed a pass from behind the cage to Jimmy Bitter , who executed the final shot.

Sankey struck three minutes later on an unassisted rocket that solidified UNC’s lead, but achieving his 13th career hat trick was not enough to satiate Sankey’s hunger. The momentum that the attackman generated was infectious, as Steve Pontrello and R.G. Keenan tallied two more goals .

“We just knew that we were better than what we were playing in the first half, and we all believed in each other,” said faceoff specialist Keenan. “The offense stepped up to play one hell of a game.”

Meanwhile, the UNC defense held Johns Hopkins to a nearly 22-minute scoring drought.

Sankey’s offensive grit truly shone in his final two goals in the fourth period. Under pressure from the timer, he collected a pass from Pat Foster and heaved it into the net before his cleats returned to grass .

“I think I heard someone say there’s 10 seconds left, so it was kind of an all-or-nothing shot,” Sankey said.

Minutes later, he careened around the net and drove in a leaping shot before multiple defenders collapsed upon him.

That seemingly backbreaking maneuver, scored from the narrowest of vantage points, filled out Sankey’s career high of five goals.

“I always practice those shots,” Sankey said. “Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t, but today they were going in. There’s definitely some luck in it.”

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