The No. 13 North Carolina men’s lacrosse team entered Saturday’s senior day against No. 1 Notre Dame with the ACC tournament’s top seed on the line.
And with a furious comeback, the Tar Heels (8-5, 3-1) secured that coveted No. 1 seed with a 17-15 win over the Irish (9-2, 3-1) in Kenan Stadium.
UNC wasted no time as junior Luke Goldstock turned a pass from senior Stephen Kelly into the game’s first goal in a mere 17 seconds.
Facing a 3-1 deficit later in the first, the Tar Heels secured goals from seniors Patrick Kelly and Jake Matthai to briefly tie the contest.
Notre Dame regained the advantage, notching three goals to end the period — scoring their sixth as time expired on a shot from past midfield.
The Tar Heels quickly put that behind them, putting together a five-goal second quarter. Senior Steve Pontrello had an offensive outburst, tallying a hat trick in the second period alone.
With less than two minutes remaining in the second, sophomore Brian Cannon forced a turnover by the Notre Dame goalie, assisting Pontrello on an open-net, game-tying goal, making the score 8-8 at half.
The third period mirrored the first as the Irish poured in six goals, while UNC failed to muster many offensive opportunities, tallying one goal on the stick of Pontrello.
Behind 14-9 heading into the fourth, the Tar Heels needed to control the game offensively if they were going to forge a comeback.
UNC dominated the fourth period on the back of an offensive onslaught, sparked by three goals from Goldstock. He led off the fourth quarter scoring with his second goal of the day, which was shortly answered by the Irish.
The Tar Heels trailed 15-10 with less than ten minutes remaining. From that point on, UNC caught fire, smothering the Irish defense with shots and goals.
Junior Stephen Kelly’s go-ahead goal with 2:50 remaining gave UNC a 16-15 lead — the sixth of seven unanswered Tar Heel goals.
“We’re always playing for the guy next to us. Especially this game we were playing for our seniors. It was their last home game, and what a way to end it.” – Luke Goldstock on winning for the senior class.
Sophomore Brian Balkam entered the game in goal late in the third. Balkam had been ill before the game, resulting in first-year Colin Reder starting. Balkam had two saves in the fourth to help UNC hold on for the win.
Three numbers that matter
9: The most goals the Irish had allowed in a game was nine entering today. The Tar Heels almost doubled that total with 17.
5: UNC has now beaten a No. 1 team five years in a row. Last year, the team defeated eventual national champion Denver University, but fell to the Irish when they were at the top spot.
19: The Tar Heels registered 19 shots in the fourth period, almost four times as many as Notre Dame’s five.
The Tar Heels will travel to Kennesaw, Ga. for the ACC tournament. The team will play Syracuse in its semifinal game Friday, April 29 at 6 p.m.
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