After a grueling three-game stretch in a six-day period, it made sense that the North Carolina men's lacrosse team showed some fatigue in a 10-6 home loss to No. 4 Denver.
The No. 9 Tar Heels (6-1) began the home stand with encouraging results, producing wins Wednesday and Saturday. But, maybe because of superior competition, lack of fresh legs or a combination of the two, UNC failed to capitalize against the Pioneers (4-1).
“We just looked a little heavy-legged out there,” said head coach Joe Breschi. “Playing three games Wednesday, Saturday and Monday, and to wrap it up with these guys, is a tough task. It was a hard-fought six days."
While the defense remained steady throughout the contest, it was the offense and goalie play that highlighted the fatigue. The offense finished only six of its 15 shots on goal, with only three Tar Heels scoring in the game. The goalie duo of sophomore Jack Pezzulla and junior Alex Bassil managed just four saves out of 14 shots on cage.
UNC will have five days for rest and recovery before heading to Hofstra on March 10. But besides almost a week of recovery from a tiring stretch, this break will offer the team a chance to learn from the past game.
“A game against Denver is something that you can take so much from,” said senior attackman Chris Cloutier. “Because they really bring out your weaknesses.”
But Cloutier, who mentioned noticing that the team failed to capitalize on great shot opportunities, was not the only person who has already learned something from the Tar Heels’ most recent loss. Breschi switched to a zone defense in the second half, and quickly realized it was yielding better results than the team’s previous set — UNC only allowed seven shots in the final 30 minutes of play.
“I loved the fact that we switched to zone,” he said. “I think our defense is getting 10 times better than we were two, three weeks ago.”
And although UNC struggled offensively in the game, it should be noted that Cloutier notched his 100th career goal for the program when he found the net for the second time in the contest.
These next few days will give Cloutier, and the rest of the team, an opportunity to regroup and learn from those mistakes on offense and in the cage, as well as fine tune the zone defense that proved effective against Denver.
“At the end of the day,” Breschi said, “It’s up to us to learn from it and get better as we head to Hofstra next week.”
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