The North Carolina men’s lacrosse team defeated the Maryland Terrapins, 14-13, in overtime in Philadelphia on Monday afternoon.
Chris Cloutier scored the game-winning goal as the Tar Heels (12-6) beat No. 1 Maryland (17-3) to cap off one of the most improbable and exciting runs to win a national championship in North Carolina history, regardless of sport.
A Cinderella season deserves a storybook ending. With a 14-13 win in overtime over Maryland, the North Carolina Tar Heels won a national championship and won it in a way that won’t be forgotten for a long time.
North Carolina jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first five minutes of the first quarter. It looked like the Tar Heels might jump out to another huge first quarter lead like they did Saturday against Loyola (Md.), but a turnover by goalie Brian Balkam allowed Maryland to get its first goal and get back into the game.
Maryland tied the score at 4-4, and from there the game was back and forth the rest of the afternoon.
UNC was up 6-5 after the end of the first quarter, behind 8-7 at the end of the second quarter and tied 10-10 after the end of three. Maryland looked to have a grasp on the game when with 7:49 left in the fourth, as Connor Kelly scored to put Maryland up 13-11.
But the Tar Heels clawed back into the game with two quick goals from Luke Goldstock and Patrick Kelly. The first was a man-up goal with 3:53 left in the fourth quarter and the second, 31 seconds later, tied the game 13-13.
The final three minutes of the game played out at a frantic tempo as both teams looked for the game-winning goal. But neither team was able to score and the game headed to overtime.
North Carolina started off overtime a man down because of an unsportsmanlike penalty on Luke Goldstock with just seconds left in regulation. But Brian Balkam made a huge save in the overtime period that effectively killed the penalty.
With 2:11 left in the overtime period, the Tar Heels got a penalty of their own and an opportunity for a man-up chance. Chris Cloutier, the hero for North Carolina so many times this season, took advantage of the opportunity and put one in to win the national championship for the Tar Heels.
Who stood out?
Cloutier was sensational for the Tar Heels. He scored five goals for the Tar Heels including the game-winner to win the national championship.
Just as important as the game-winner, though, were his three straight goals in the third quarter to get the Tar Heels back into it.
Cloutier set an NCAA record with goals in an NCAA Tournament with 19 and was named the tournament's most outstanding player. His play throughout the month of May was a major reason why the Tar Heels pulled off the improbable run to the national title.
When was it decided?
Balkam’s save with 3:26 left in the overtime period helped kill Maryland’s man-up penalty and gave the Tar Heels the ball back with a chance to win it. Cloutier did the rest.
Why does it matter?
It’s hard to put into words both how improbable this championship run was and how much it means to the team and the lacrosse program at UNC.
North Carolina was on the bubble to make the NCAA Tournament after they had an up-and-down season. They entered the tournament and were underdogs against Marquette in the first round, but somehow got hot and won the whole thing.
This championship is just as big for the program as a whole. With the win, North Carolina earns its first NCAA Championship since 1991 and wins its first under Coach Joe Breschi. With the 1991 team in attendance today for the 25-year anniversary celebration of their championship, and with so many Tar Heel fans and alumni in town to watch, this championship means the world to the Tar Heel program.
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