DURHAM — The North Carolina men's lacrosse team won 14-10 over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Sunday afternoon in Koskinen Stadium.
North Carolina has won the ACC Tournament in 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996 and 2013. It can now add another year, 2017, to that list.
North Carolina jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first quarter behind an early flurry of energy and effort.
Redshirt junior defender Jack Lambert's rocket of a goal with 7:43 left in the first quarter was the capstone of that run. UNC entered Sunday with a 4-2 record when scoring first this season, so the early run was a great sign for the Tar Heels.
Notre Dame scored its first goal with 3:47 left in the first quarter and added two more in the second. However, it still entered the break down 7-3. The Fighting Irish controlled 10 of 12 face-offs and had a 17-12 advantage on ground balls in the first half of play. However, UNC held the big lead thanks to a 22-18 advantage in shots taken.
UNC scored first to open quarter three, but the Fighting Irish made a run late in the third quarter with three goals in 3:16, the last of which made it 8-6. North Carolina still had the lead, but Notre Dame had all the momentum.
North Carolina gathered itself at the third quarter break, though, and exploded with two quick goals in the fourth quarter to provide some breathing room for their lead.
Notre Dame hung around all quarter, scoring four more goals. But North Carolina was even tougher and could relax as the clock ran down with a comfortable margin and win.
Who stood out?
In the first half, junior attacker Chris Cloutier again carried the Tar Heels to victory.
Coming into Sunday's ACC championship, Cloutier led the Tar Heels in goals with 28 and was tied with Luke Goldstock for the lead in points with 39. He was also a critical piece of the puzzle that allowed North Carolina to win the national championship in 2016.
He did more than just score, though. A Cloutier assist to Luke Goldstock gave UNC its 13th goal of the day and a five goal lead with 6:52 left in the fourth quarter.
When was it over?
With 2:27 left, Luke Goldstock scored North Carolina's 14th goal of the day in transition after a brilliant save from Brian Balkam.
UNC's sideline exploded after the goal, knowing the gravity of the moment — it was the proverbial dagger that secured the conference championship for North Carolina.
Why does it matter?
Following last season's national championship, the Tar Heels entered the 2017 season with sky-high expectations. The regular season, though, proved to be tough. UNC suffered losses against Johns Hopkins, Hofstra and Richmond on the way to a 3-3 start out of the gate.
Conference play wasn't much kinder. UNC went 1-3 in ACC play, including a tough 12-11 loss to Syracuse in overtime on April 15 in Chapel Hill.
But by winning the ACC on Sunday — and doing it against a team it had lost to in its season finale — North Carolina made up for whatever shortcomings the team had in the regular season and has set itself up extremely well for another great postseason run.
Where do they play next?
The NCAA selection show is at 9 p.m. on ESPNU on Sunday, May 7. Then, the Tar Heels will find out their fate as it pertains to the NCAA Tournament.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.