The No. 14 North Carolina men's lacrosse team lost on Saturday afternoon 15-7 to No. 10 Maryland.
Last May, UNC beat Maryland, 14-13, to win the 2016 NCAA Championship in front of a crowd of 26,749 fans at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Maryland produced a similar offensive output Saturday, but unlike in 2016, North Carolina just couldn't keep up.
With 9:45 left in the first quarter, North Carolina's Luke Goldstock scored to tie the game at one. From that point forward, Maryland (5-2) dominated. The Terrapins scored five unanswered goals during a stretch in the first quarter and went into halftime with a 9-3 lead.
At the end of the third quarter, Maryland held a 13-4 lead. The large crowd at Fetzer Field Saturday afternoon roared when the Tar Heels scored their fourth goal with 5:56 left in the third, but UNC (5-4) couldn't translate whatever momentum that goal produced into a meaningful comeback.
UNC got three goals in the fourth quarter trying to climb back into it. However, Maryland had built up an insurmountable lead and cruised to the easy victory.
At halftime, Maryland ran into the locker room energized and with all the momentum. But North Carolina walked over to the side of Fetzer Field, eventually holding a halftime meeting in front of the signs that display all the championships and Final Four appearances for the soccer and lacrosse programs at UNC.
Two Tar Heels didn't get the message. No 17 Austin Pifani and No. 15 Timmy Kelly jogged back alone towards the McCaskill Soccer Center and had to be alerted that the rest of their team was meeting somewhere else. It was that kind of afternoon for the Tar Heels.
Who stood out?
North Carolina goalie Brian Balkam was brilliant in last season's matchup against Maryland in the national championship, making 13 saves. Saturday, he struggled.
In the first half, Maryland took 15 shots, the same number that the Tar Heels attempted. But the Terrapins scored nine goals, while UNC managed just three. Balkam also made just one save in the first half, compared to six for Maryland goalie Dan Morris.
In the third quarter, Balkam was pulled. He allowed 11 goals and finished with the one save.
When was it over?
North Carolina started the fourth quarter by scoring two straight goals, cutting Maryland's lead to 13-6.
But Maryland's Riley Graham scored a goal, his team's 14th of the day. It extended the Terrapins' lead to eight, quieted the crowd at Fetzer and silenced any hopes of a comeback.
Why does it matter?
With the loss, North Carolina fell to 5-4 on the season. The Tar Heels have now lost four of six games after starting the season 3-0.
Given the margin and the stakes, Saturday's loss felt like more than just another loss, though, for the Tar Heels. UNC will have to regroup before beginning a four-game stretch of conference games and try to find some of that magic that led to the 2016 national championship.
Where do they play next?
North Carolina takes the field next against Duke on April 2 at 7 p.m. The game against the Blue Devils is the first ACC conference game of the season.
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