But what they witnessed instead was a race. A neck-and-neck dead sprint, in fact, defined by tit-for-tat transition goals and five lead changes.
A goal from R.G. Keenan with 2:28 left gave UNC the final 11-10 advantage and the Tar Heels emerged victorious from the 60-minute heat, finally able to catch their breaths.
“That was definitely one of the most mentally tough games I’ve been in in a while,” said junior attackman Joey Sankey.
As soon as Keenan and UVa. junior Mick Parks took their starting positions at the X for the first face-off, both sides bolted at one another with high intensity and a sense of urgency.
UNC struck first, two minutes into the match, with a goal from Steve Pontrello. UVa. equalized at the 7:03 mark, but goals from Sankey and Jimmy Bitter rounded out the first period in UNC’s favor.
Virginia forced the Tar Heels to chase its offense in the second period, disrupting UNC’s typical run-and-gun style of play and outscoring them 4-2 in the second period. Neither team seemed able to find a rhythm in the match’s back-and-forth frenzy.
“Ground balls was the No. 1 key and key No. 2 was to stop transition,” said coach Joe Breschi. “Three of their first five goals by half were in transition, some sort of transition ... They’re good at it, we’re good at it.”
UNC’s Achilles’ heel in defending UVa.’s full-field acceleration was senior attackman Mark Cockerton. In the third period, Cockerton assisted the goal that gave Virginia the lead coming out of halftime and later added a personal equalizer — his third tally of the day.