Senior attackman Joey Sankey tallied his 214th career point, making him UNC’s all-time leading scorer — passing Marcus Holman — and helping the No. 4 Tar Heels take down No. 2 Syracuse 17-15 Saturday afternoon.
“You can’t even put it into words,” said sophomore attackman Luke Goldstock, who led the Tar Heels with four goals and an assist. “He works so hard every day. He’s so unselfish, and he would do anything for us to win.”
The record-breaker came on a shot from Sankey with 9:17 left in the fourth quarter to put UNC ahead 17-11. As both teams prepared for the ensuing faceoff, the record was announced over the loud speaker as the crowd rose to a standing ovation and good friend, and fellow senior, Jimmy Bitter embraced Sankey in a hug big enough for two.
“Being able to play with Marcus for two years, he gave me a lot of those points,” Sankey said. “But I’ve played with so many great players here, and without them this wouldn’t have happened at all. So you really have to credit the whole program, but it’s a huge honor and I’m really thankful for it.”
The emotions of Senior Day and welcoming back an old rival to Fetzer Field for the first time since 1993 seemed to fuel UNC early, as the Tar Heels took a 5-0 lead late into the first quarter.
“I think everybody was excited with the seniors having Senior Day, and I think they were all really amped up,” Coach Joe Breschi said.
After taking a 10-6 lead into halftime, the Tar Heels started the third quarter with the pedal to the floor. With 5:40 to play in the third quarter, Bitter made a move from the left side of the box, ripped a running shot from just inside 10 yards and beat the Syracuse goalkeeper to the top corner. The goal put UNC ahead 14-7, Syracuse’s largest deficit of the season.
But the Orange didn’t make the more than 600-mile trip to Chapel Hill just to get smacked on national television. Syracuse made a ferocious comeback in the final eight minutes of the game, scoring four unanswered goals to cut the UNC lead to 17-15 with 1:52 left to play.
Syracuse had a man-up opportunity following the goal, but senior and New York native Jake Bailey forced a turnover that allowed UNC to seal the win. The victory improves UNC to 12-1 and 3-0 in the ACC, an ACC feat it hasn’t accomplished in 23 years.
“Everybody knew that this was their day,” Breschi said of Sankey and his fellow seniors. “And everybody responded.”