UNC lacked intensity and played lackadaisically against the Pride, but they came into Sunday’s game determined to start with focus and energy.
“When your manhood is questioned, you’re gonna get out there and you’re going to give it everything you have,” Coach Joe Breschi said.
And in the Tar Heels’ 15-11 win over the Blue Jays at Homewood Field in Baltimore, the team did exactly that, using a pivotal 5-0 run to secure the victory.
Sophomore attackman Chris Cloutier opened the scoring just 27 seconds after the game began, as he received the ball from a streaking Stephen Kelly and whipped a sidearm shot past the goalkeeper. The UNC attack scored four goals in the first 13 minutes of the game.
“We really wanted to get off to a hot start,” said redshirt junior midfielder Michael Tagliaferri. “It set the tone of the game for us and obviously when you can start a game like that it’s huge.”
Simultaneously, the defense caused havoc in the Johns Hopkins’ attack and midfield, forcing turnovers and keeping the Blue Jays from establishing a rhythm. The defense shut out Johns Hopkins and led North Carolina (3-1) to an early 4-0 edge.
But as the game progressed, UNC was unable to keep up this intensity and Johns Hopkins became more comfortable. Despite giving up a season-high seven goals in one half, the Blue Jays found themselves down only 7-5 at halftime.
The game developed into a tight affair after halftime with the two teams trading goals. North Carolina was unable to recapture the intensity of its hot start and after three quarters the score was tied at 9.
While North Carolina was a man down due to penalties, the Blue Jays seized an 11-10 lead with about 11 minutes to go in the fourth quarter after scoring two goals in the span of 26 seconds. It appeared Johns Hopkins was on the verge of taking control of the game, but those two goals would be the Blue Jays’ last.
With roughly eight minutes left in the game, Cloutier scored the third of his four goals, sparking a 5-0 run that extended to the final whistle. Four different Tar Heels tallied goals over the course of the run, including junior midfielder Shane Simpson — who scored his first two goals of the season in the game.
“Making simple plays, moving the ball and playing unselfish really paid off for us today,” Simpson said. “It feels really good for me individually (to score), but I’m also just so happy for the team and that we could get a victory today.”
Breschi praised the composure his players showed in the face of adversity, especially with six of the remaining nine games for UNC coming against ranked opponents.
“The way we hung in there and kept fighting and scrapping, we’re just really proud of the entire effort of all of them,” he said. “It’s not easy coming into Homewood Field and playing the way they did.”