Just over five minutes into the game, Bitter made a nifty move from behind the net before getting denied by Harvard goalkeeper Bryan Moore. A scrum ensued in front of Harvard’s goal and Bitter scooped up the ball and scored from one knee to tie the UNC record and give the Tar Heels (9-0) the early 1-0 lead.
“I didn’t even know that was a UNC record,” said Bitter with a laugh. “That’s cool. It’s definitely an honor because there have been a lot of great players here.”
Bitter followed his early goal with three more first-quarter goals. By the 6:55 mark of the first quarter Bitter had already notched his 19th career hat trick, on his way to a five-goal and two-assist performance.
The early energy could be seen and heard from the Tar Heels, something Coach Joe Breschi said was a big point of emphasis.
“We talked the last 48 hours after the Richmond game about how important it was for everyone to be energized,” Breschi said. “I’m really proud of the team effort. Right from the start we played great team defense and we knew that’s what it would take against a very good Harvard team.”
Junior goalkeeper Kieran Burke played just his second full game of the season and it was apparent that he’s finally feeling fully healthy.
“Oh, definitely. I’m ready to go,” he said.
Burke was a wall in between the pipes for the Tar Heels, setting a season-high with 21 saves on 48 Crimson shots.
“I was just seeing the ball really well, just waiting and attacking to it. Not much more than that,” Burke said. “It’s good to be in there the whole time and get comfortable. You have four quarters to see the ball well and it gets better and better every quarter.”
The UNC defense played a strong game in front of Burke, holding Harvard to just five goals before a 5-0 run by the Crimson in the late minutes pushed the final score to 15-10.
“For 55 minutes, yes, for sure,” said Breschi when asked if this was his team’s best performance of the season. “The last five minutes were a mess.”
The Tar Heels couldn’t be hitting their stride at a better time. The final five remaining games on their schedule are against teams currently ranked No. 8 or higher.