It was cold, it was raining, it was windy. It was the perfect weather to capture how the past six games have gone for the North Carolina men’s lacrosse team.
After a 15-12 loss to Virginia on Saturday, the Tar Heels have now dropped six in a row after winning their first six games of the season. They were picked apart by the No. 13 Cavaliers in a game that never saw a North Carolina lead outside of the first eight minutes.
Virginia (9-3, 1-2 ACC) dominated the first half, outshooting North Carolina by 10 as well as recovering 11 more ground balls.
That dominance on recovering balls and controlling possession led to a 9-4 lead for the Cavaliers at halftime. Both players and coaches pointed out that the team needed to improve on keeping possession in the last two games of the season.
“We need to get a whole lot tougher,” attackman Timmy Kelly said. “We are very, very soft. I think that our toughness on ground balls needs to get better.”
It was during the second quarter that Virginia started to pull away, outscoring UNC by four in Kenan Stadium.
“They really did a great job in the second quarter of capitalizing on some of our breakdowns defensively,” head coach Joe Breschi said. “That second quarter was the difference of the game, so credit goes to them.”
If there was one positive for UNC during the game, it was sophomore attackman Matt Gavin, who scored his first three goals of the season in the third quarter to cut the Virginia lead down to four at the end of the quarter. It was Gavin’s first career hat trick for UNC. He only had three career goals coming into the game.
“I’m really excited obviously to get some playing time and contribute to the team,” Gavin said. “Just hoping next game against Syracuse that we can pull out a win.”
The young North Carolina team had no answer for Virginia star Michael Kraus, who led the game with seven points on three goals and had four assists. Kraus was one of three Cavalier players to score three or more goals — along with Ian Laviano and Mike D’Amario. Kraus is currently 15th in the nation in points per game, averaging 4.73 per contest.
It was Kraus and Laviano who held the Tar Heels at bay, scoring three goals in a row in under two minutes in the third quarter to push their lead to six after North Carolina had cut it to three.
“We had all the momentum,” said Breschi. “Cut it to three, and then we (turned it over), and they go on a three-goal run. You just can’t make those kinds of mistakes and with some young guys in there, we made some of those critical errors.”
North Carolina only has two more games left in its season until the start of the ACC Tournament. As of today, UNC would be the one team out of the five in the ACC to miss the tournament. The team has not won a game since March 3 against St. John's, and upcoming conference games against No. 8 Syracuse and No. 12 Notre Dame will decide its season.
“We’ve got to get back to what Carolina lacrosse is about,” Kelly said. “Which is toughness, ground balls, and brotherhood.”
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