The North Carolina men’s lacrosse team was on the verge of a much-needed win on Saturday, but instead, it suffered another stinging defeat — this time, a 13-12 overtime loss at No. 6 Syracuse.
The Tar Heels (6-7, 0-3 ACC) held a three-goal advantage with just under four and half minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, but they allowed the Orange (7-4, 4-0 ACC) to score three consecutive goals to force a sudden-death overtime, which they later won on a goal by Brendan Bomberry.
With the loss, UNC has dropped seven consecutive games after starting its season with six straight wins, and face an uphill battle in attempting to qualify for the ACC tournament.
For much of Saturday afternoon at the Carrier Dome, UNC and Syracuse played an even, back-and-forth game.
After a low-scoring first quarter, Syracuse opened the second quarter with two goals to take a 3-1 lead before UNC responded with goals by Chris Cloutier and William Perry to tie the game at 3-3.
Nothing separated the two teams when halftime came around after UNC’s Matt Gavin netted a game-tying goal with just nine seconds remaining in the second quarter.
The scoring picked up in the second half, as the Tar Heels scored the first two goals out of the break thanks to efforts by Perry and Steven Schneider.
In what was a second half full of runs by both teams, Syracuse scored five of the game’s next eight goals to make it 9-9 early in the fourth quarter.
The Tar Heels responded with an impressive stretch of play, scoring three times in less than three minutes on goals by Jack Rowlett, Gavin and Alex Trippi to take a 12-9 lead.
At that point, it looked like UNC was in good position to earn its first victory since March 3. Instead, however, the Tar Heels saw their lead vanish quickly. After coming up empty-handed on a minute-long man-up advantage, UNC allowed Syracuse back in the game with a goal by Stephen Rehfuss with 4:26 remaining.
Yet, the Tar Heels remained ahead by two goals with just over a minute and half remaining in regulation. Syracuse’s Brendan Curry, however, would lead the Orange’s comeback, notching two goals in a 46-second span, with 1:34 and 00:48 remaining, respectively.
With the momentum back on its side, Syracuse completed its rally with Bomberry’s overtime goal, which was assisted by Curry.
Who stood out?
Gavin and Trippi led UNC offensively with five goals apiece (two goals, one assist), as the Tar Heels scored in double digits for the fourth time in five games. The two combined to score UNC’s final two goals of the game just under halfway into the fourth quarter, as the Tar Heels looked poised to win. Perry and Timmy Kelly also combined for four goals in the loss.
Schneider’s goal, which came with 8:53 left in the second quarter, was the first of the first-year’s career.
When was it decided?
Already ahead by three after a good stretch of play, UNC could have seized complete control of the game once Syracuse’s Ryan Simmons’ cross-check penalty gave the Tar Heels a man-advantage for a minute at the 7:22 mark in the fourth quarter.
But UNC couldn’t make anything of the opportunity, and Syracuse eventually rallied.
Why does it matter?
For UNC, the loss means it must win at home against Notre Dame in its final regular-season game to have a chance at earning the final spot in the four-team ACC tournament. Additionally, the manner in which the loss came has to be a devastating blow to the Tar Heels — who were on the verge of their first victory in six weeks.
When do they play next?
UNC hosts Notre Dame at Kenan Stadium at noon on Saturday. The game will be televised on ESPNU.
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