The No. 18 North Carolina men's lacrosse team (7-7) shot out to a massive lead in the semifinals of the ACC tournament over top ACC seed and No. 1 ranked Syracuse (11-2). After a furious comeback by the Orange, UNC hung on for a dramatic 16-15 win to keep its season alive and advance to the ACC championship game.
With their season on the line, the fourth-seed Tar Heels shot out of the gates with an aggressive offensive front. After falling behind by a goal in the opening three minutes, UNC reeled off four goals in the first quarter as it built a 6-1 lead in the first 17 minutes of the game.
A goal by redshirt junior Chris Cloutier extended a dream run by the Tar Heels as they exploded to an 11-2 lead. The stretch didn’t last. The early fireworks subsided just as the Syracuse offense found their stride. The third quarter was all Orange, as the team shot off six unanswered goals to drive the score to 13-12 heading into the fourth quarter.
The final quarter provided a flurry of dramatics. Cloutier and All-ACC senior Luke Goldstock helped build the lead to 16-13, but in the closing minute the Orange had the ball on a man-up opportunity, and Brendan Bomberry notched a diving shot at the goal to bring the game to 16-15.
With less than 30 seconds remaining, the Tar Heels protected their lead for a dramatic one goal win and advanced to the finals of the ACC tournament.
Who stood out?
Cloutier, Goldstock and sophomore Andy Matthews each contributed a team-high four points in the victory. Goldstock and Cloutier provided much of the offense late, exploiting every opening in the Syracuse defense.
Cloutier getting hot is essential for the Tar Heels if they hope to take the ACC title and even have a chance to be selected for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. A season ago, he was essential in the underdog run which culminated in a national championship.