The North Carolina men’s lacrosse team opened its national title defense with a bang on Saturday, defeating UMBC, 17-6, at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Raleigh.
UNC dominated the game from the first faceoff, with senior midfielder Stephen Kelly winning the ball and driving down the side of the field, firing a shot into the net just 15 seconds into the game. The Tar Heels continued to win faceoffs, with Kelly winning 75 percent of his attempts.
UNC was also extremely efficient on offense, putting 11 of their 17 shots on frame while holding UMBC to just one shot in the first period. The result was a 10-1 lead after just 15 minutes of play.
The second quarter was a much scrappier affair, as both teams improved defensively. Each team had seven turnovers in the quarter, but UNC outshot UMBC, 10-3, to tack on two more goals to head into halftime up 12-1.
The third quarter featured back-and-forth play from both teams, as UNC began to play more of its substitutes down the stretch. The team’s exchanged goals all the way to the quarter break, ending up with a 14-4 Tar Heel lead with 15 minutes to play.
UMBC was able to tack on two more goals in the fourth quarter, but UNC’s subs got a little more chemistry as the game went on, netting three of their own to get to the final margin.
Who stood out?
Stephen Kelly was rock solid from the faceoff, snagging 11 of his 16 attempts to allow UNC to dominate possession in the first half. Kelly also grabbed nine groundballs and the opening goal in the game.
Sophomore Timmy Kelly provided the offensive spark for the Tar Heels in the first quarter, snaring a hat trick before the period even ended. His second goal, UNC’s sixth of the game, rifled past the keeper into the top of the net after a UMBC went out of position. It was an exclamation point in UNC’s opening rout.
First-year Justin Anderson played very well in his official Tar Heel debut. Grabbing a goal in three of the four periods, he also finished with a hat trick and assisted Timmy Kelly’s second goal.
When was it decided?
The wild start in the opening period set the tone for the game. UNC was able to score eight goals in a row to start the game from a variety of angles before UMBC even had an attack of their own. Seven different Tar Heels ended up scoring in the first quarter, and UMBC never went above the nine-goal deficit it held the end of the quarter
Why does it matter?
As defending national champions, UNC will be getting everyone’s best shot in 2017. While UMBC is in rebuilding mode, with a new coaching staff taking the helm this season, results like these set the tone for the level of production needed to compete at a top level.
The blowout also allowed for the Tar Heels to work in their substitutes as the game progressed, giving them valuable playing time that could come in handy as the team needs more depth as the season wears on.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels travel to Greenville, S.C., on February 11, to take on the Furman Paladins. The game is scheduled to start at noon.
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