It’s only the second game of the season, so there are bound to be a few kinks that the North Carolina men's lacrosse team needs to work out.
But one wouldn’t think so by glancing at the box score of No. 5 UNC's 15-9 win against High Point University at Navy Field on Tuesday evening.
Still, UNC's 12 penalties saw them a man down for eight minutes of the game, they won only eight of 28 faceoffs, and had 11 turnovers, leaving plenty of room for improvement.
“It was disappointing. Twelve penalties is unacceptable for us,” Coach Joe Breschi said. “We know how chippy (High Point) plays, and I think we responded a little too much. I love how excited our guys were, but unfortunately we were a man down 12 times, so we’ve got to clean that up.”
Senior attackman Jimmy Bitter said it was the most penalties he’s ever seen called in a game and that being a man down affected the pace at which the team wanted to attack up field.
"Obviously there’s some adversity with the penalties and the faceoff X,” said Bitter. “With an offense that likes to play fast, it is a little different for us. We knew we were going to have to play good defense, possess the ball, get it around the horn a bit. Other than that, it’s still lacrosse.”
The Tar Heels jumped out to an early 7-2 lead by the end of the first quarter and Bitter led the charge, ending the game with four goals.
In the second quarter, an aggressive High Point got off 13 shots, but they could only keep pace with Carolina, ending the half down 9-4.
Carolina never trailed once, but Breschi and his team were aware of the Panthers’ tenacity. Breschi said he was wary of a late High Point run, similar to what they did against No. 3 Duke on Saturday when they tied the game late after being down by five.
Although there were moments in the second half when the Panthers gained some momentum, it was never enough to overcome the contributions of eight different UNC goal scorers — including three scorers with three goals or more.
“If we can have that type of night, where we have that many penalties and the overall stats on the faceoff X, and then beat a team by six goals, that shows a lot about our team overall which I think is a great sign,” said sophomore midfielder Stephen Kelly.
The Tar Heels will look to improve on their mistakes in this game, but also leave Tuesday's match with some positive takeaways to learn from going forward.
“I just loved the energy we brought,” Breschi said. “The attack was composed and put pressure on the defense the entire game. Just not stopping, I loved the way we did that. A lot of positives across the board. I’d like to focus on those.”
“And hopefully not foul ... as much.”
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