The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday September 25th

UNC men's lacrosse falters late in 12-8 loss to Duke

The No. 16 North Carolina men’s lacrosse team couldn’t ride its hot start against No. 11 Duke (8-3, 1-1 ACC), falling 12-8, and the Tar Heels (5-5, 0-1 ACC) have now dropped four of their last five games.

What happened?

The Tar Heels came out on fire Sunday night against Duke. After winning the opening faceoff, UNC immediately stepped on the gas. Michael Tagliaferri got his sixth goal of the season to opening the scoring for the game.

North Carolina proceeded to score the next two goals, and there were no signs of stopping. William McBride got the second goal, and Tagliaferri added another to make it 3-0.

Duke managed to get on the scoreboard with just over five minutes left in the first quarter, with Jack Bruckner scoring on the team’s first shot. Two minutes later, Chris Cloutier added to his team-high goals total, now at 19. The first quarter ended with UNC leading 4-1, leaving the packed crowd buzzing with anticipation.

The second quarter was running about the same pace, and again the Tar Heels were on the offensive. Two quick goals gave North Carolina a five-goal advantage, highlighted by a devastating move by William Perry that left a Duke defender defenseless on his knees as the first-year slotted home UNC’s sixth goal.

This is when things started to turn sour for North Carolina. Duke answered the call with three unanswered goals, and the Tar Heel body language shifted.

UNC wasn't ready to lay down just yet, however. Luke Goldstock found Timmy Kelly, who drilled a shot as he fell to the turf, making the score 7-4.

Duke wasted no time to go one right back, and Bruckner notched his third goal with less than two minutes left in the half. The teams when into the locker room with UNC leading 7-5, but Duke was just getting started.

The second half was a completely different game. The main switch was the faceoff battle. The Tar Heels had the advantage during the first few head-to-heads, but then Duke’s Kyle Rowe started to heat up.

The Blue Devils began to dominate possession, and they tied the game at seven-all with 4:17 left in the third period. But again, UNC found a way to salvage something out of the quarter when Timmy Kelly slotted home a goal with just seven seconds on the clock.

The fact that UNC was going into the final frame with a lead was just about the only thing positive from here on out.

Duke’s Rowe claimed 14 of the last 15 faceoffs in the game, including all six in the fourth quarter. Because of this, North Carolina only managed about one minute of possession in the final period. With the Tar Heels faltering, Duke put its foot down and quickly took control to score five unanswered goals to end the game, pushing the final score to 12-8.

Who stood out?

Despite giving up 12 goals, redshirt junior Brian Balkam had a solid game in the net. He finished the game with 10 saves, including several very important stops that kept North Carolina contending. Most of Duke’s goals came from precise and creative ball movement, and Balkam didn’t have much a chance at times.

Sophomore attackman Timmy Kelly was very efficient today. He scored on both of his shot attempts, and also added an assist to his tally.

When was it decided?

Once Duke tied the game at 8-8 in the fourth quarter. After winning the faceoff, the Blue Devils pounded the Tar Heel defensive. The Duke players shrugged off two saves by Balkam and got off five shots on this first possession. The goal by Brad Smith was a dagger to already fading confidence of North Carolina. This is what started the run that left the North Carolina gasping for air.

Why does it matter?

The season is quickly slipping through the Tar Heels fingers. They have dropped two in a row and four of their last five, all of which were at home. After bringing home the NCAA title last year, it’s going to be tough for this team to even make the NCAA tournament this go around. This isn’t unfamiliar territory for North Carolina, but this hole might be too deep.

Where do they play next?

There are just three games left in the regular sesaon, and the next one will be in Charlottesville against No. 14 Virginia. Game time is set for 7 p.m.


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