The No. 17 North Carolina men’s lacrosse team had watched its five-goal lead dissipate more quickly than it was built, and there was nothing it could do about it.
Just minutes before letting Syracuse rattle off an impressive 6-1 run to tie the game, it was the Tar Heel offense that looked unstoppable, manhandling the No. 1 team in the country.
“We got out to a good start,” junior attacker Chris Cloutier said, “But you’ve got to always keep in your mind that they’re a good team and the game’s never over.”
UNC’s offense showed a flash of greatness, like it has done on a number of occasions this year, where the Tar Heels amassed a 9-1 run against a stout Syracuse defense.
But as the Orange made their run, North Carolina’s offense was nowhere to be found.
“Momentum is a huge thing in the game of lacrosse,” Pifani said. “Once a team grabs it, it’s hard to get it back.”
The 14-minute dry spell that led to UNC’s eventual 12-11 overtime loss could be explained by any number of reasons, or all of them.
“It was part (Syracuse),” head coach Joe Breschi said. “The goalie started making some saves.”
“We were playing a lot of defense, that was also part of it,” he said.
“The ground balls, I think they got us a little bit in the second half.”
No matter the reason, the Tar Heel offense’s disappearing act has become a trend this season. On any given night — or in any given quarter, really — UNC’s attack has the potential to score with ease, working its way through defenses with little trouble and scoring in bunches. That same unit, sometimes just moments later, can appear stagnant and incapable of generating shot attempts, let alone goals.
The Tar Heels have scored 15 goals or more on four different occasions this season, all of which were wins. To the same tune, UNC has failed to reach double digits in six of its games, and the team is just 1-5 in those contests.
In many ways, the Tar Heel offense drives the team’s success. When it’s clicking, the whole squad is clicking. But when faced with runs from the opposition, when the team needs a score to stop the bleeding, the offense has gone silent time and again.
“We know that if we come to play, we should be able to hang with these teams,” Cloutier said.
“We need to have that confidence and play through the full 60 minutes.”
The Tar Heels have shown flashes of offensive brilliance, whether through one period or one possession, this season. But ultimately, they have failed to put together a complete performance, especially in the face of a run from the opposition.
“You have to face the weather, get through that storm, and wait for your run to come,” Cloutier said. “Unfortunately, ours didn’t today.”