Hot shooting and scalding defense helped the Tar Heels overcome scoring runs by the opposition en route to their first Top-10 win of the year. After knocking off No. 9 Johns Hopkins, 13-11, UNC is now 4-0 on the season.
The Tar Heels, with contributions from senior attackmen Jimmy Bitter and Joey Sankey — whose goals gave them 100 career goals each — as well as from sophomore Luke Goldstock and redshirt sophomore Michael Tagliaferri, gave UNC a four-goal lead in the first half.
But the Blue Jays wouldn’t let that stand. They soon made it their turn to bring the heat.
“We got out of sorts a bit, and they took advantage of it,” said Coach Joe Breschi.
“But guys got to make plays at the end of the day, and Sankey, Bitter and Goldstock did.”
By halftime, UNC had a 7-3 lead, but it took about seven minutes into the third quarter for Johns Hopkins to crush that lead to one.
Two rapid goals by Goldstock, who finished with a hat trick, and another Bitter goal — his 103rd, which put him at seventh on UNC’s all-time list — put UNC up four.
“Lacrosse is a game of runs,” Bitter said. “We get six goals, they’re going to end up getting four, so you have to deal with adversity, especially on offense. You just have to be patient, so we just had to slow it down and play our offense.”
And they did.
With strong shooting, six Tar Heels notched at least one goal, with the starting attackmen scoring at least three each for the third time in four games.
Six Tar Heels also had at least one assist, with Sankey, leading the way with three.
His 102 career goals are good for a tie for eighth place on the all-time list, right behind Bitter.
But if anything was just as important as scoring goals, it was the UNC defense’s ability to stop the Blue Jays’ runs.
“We just told everyone to calm down,” said senior defenseman Jake Bailey. “We knew they weren’t going to score on us 6-on-6, and we just needed to settle down. We’re a tight-knit group, and we have a lot of confidence going into every game.”
Though Johns Hopkins had a small advantage in some statistical categories, including ground balls and shots, it was the Tar Heels’ quick hands and heavy defense that led them to victory and solidified their position as a top-five team.
And it will be just as important to bring that heat to their next match Friday against the University of Denver Pioneers.
“We made some simple mistakes,” Breschi said. “But I think that was kind of a good test for us to prepare us to play against the No. 1 team in the country.”