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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC men's lacrosse falls short of Final Four with loss to Maryland

Joey Sankey didn’t celebrate. 

With 5:12 left in his team's NCAA quarterfinal game against Maryland, the senior had just scored his third goal of the day — what would be the last goal of his career as a North Carolina men’s lacrosse player. 

But the senior handed out neither hugs nor high-fives. Sankey simply shook his head and walked back towards the X spot, where his Tar Heels had struggled all game. 

Sankey had scored the final goal in a 14-7 game, which had been dominated by the Terrapins. 

The Tar Heels knew their opponent well and had prepared all week for a Maryland team that defeated them earlier this season. But history repeated itself Sunday in Annapolis, Md. 

“The coaches prepared us well,” Sankey said. “As players, we didn’t execute as well as we could have.”

The Tar Heels, much like in their first game, were dominated from the start by Maryland’s strength on faceoffs and long offensive possessions.

“It was eerily similar to the last time we played them,” Coach Joe Breschi said. 

UNC came into this quarterfinal matchup as the No. 3 seed and the favorite, but the No. 6 Terrapins had other plans. Maryland held a UNC team that averaged 14.8 points a game to just two goals in the first half. 

UNC watched an 8-2 Maryland lead, the largest deficit of the season at the time, balloon to a 13-2 game. 

“I thought we started to press a little bit and tried to do too much defensively,” Breschi said.

But not all of the blame could be placed on the UNC defense.

The UNC offense was held scoreless for just under 25 minutes between the second and third quarters. 

“Obviously, they kept us out of our rhythm for longer than we would have liked,” senior Jimmy Bitter said. “But it’s part of the game. You go on streaks. 

“We had our chances, and (Maryland) made some good saves.”

While rushed offense and early-possession turnovers cost the Tar Heels down the stretch, Maryland’s dominance in the possession battle proved key.

“Part of their great defense is their offense and how much they possess the ball,” Sankey said.

For the four seniors who started the game and the nine on the team, their careers didn’t end how they had hoped. But their careers are not be defined by one loss.

Seniors like Sankey and Bitter have contributed for four years to UNC’s lacrosse program, posting records and contributing to moments that will stand far beyond the four years they have spent here.

Sankey, the all-time UNC points leader (229) and Bitter, who holds the longest scoring streak in UNC history (58 games), have contributed immeasurably both on and off the field, Breschi said. 

While they depart on a loss, they will be remembered well by coaches, teammates and fans alike.

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“(This loss) doesn’t take away from what they have accomplished while they were here,” Breschi said of his standout seniors.

“They will be sorely missed.”