In the battle of opposites, slow and steady won the match for the Terrapins.
The Terrapins built a 7-2 lead before holding off a late UNC rally for a 10-8 win and UNC’s first loss of the season.
“They did a terrific job of really being extra patient,” Coach Joe Breschi said. “(It was the) slowest game that we’ve played all year.”
UNC midfielder Chad Tutton scored the first goal for UNC (9-1), but Maryland (6-1) responded with two goals in a 40-second span to take the lead. UNC tied the score at two apiece but then endured nearly a 34-minute scoring drought in which Maryland built its lead.
“A lot of the shots weren’t dropping. We weren’t getting any bounces. It didn’t seem like anything was going our way,” Tutton said.
Led by attackmen Joey Sankey and Jimmy Bitter, UNC attempted a comeback. The two seniors took turns assisting the others on goals, Bitter first and then Sankey, to bring UNC back within three.
Bitter’s goal marked the 51st game in a row he scored, breaking the old school record of 50. Sankey’s goal was his 46th in a row and kept him right behind Bitter. The two added four assists each.
Maryland’s deliberate style of play threw the Tar Heels off their rhythm. Breschi said the Terrapins almost doubled UNC’s time of possession, forcing them to play more defense than offense. Maryland did this by dominating the faceoffs, winning 15 to UNC’s seven and snaring 38 groundballs to UNC’s 29 — the first time all season UNC has been topped in ground balls.
“It sucks, but sometimes you’re going to get the bounce, and sometimes you aren’t,” Tutton said.
When UNC was able to mount an offensive, Maryland kept bodies back and prevented UNC from gaining any kind of extra-man advantage with their attack. Breschi and Tutton both said UNC’s six-on-six offense needed work heading into the conference portion of their season, which begins Sunday against Duke, specifically the team’s shooting.
“A lot of the shots we took were from good spots but not good shot placement or good timing,” Tutton said.
Despite suffering the first loss of the season, both Breschi and Tutton had high praise for the fight the team had in clawing back into the game. But UNC couldn’t close the gap. Each time it made a push, Maryland answered to stretch the lead back.
In the end, the Tar Heels couldn’t catch up to the Terrapins.