On a cold, wet and nasty Saturday night in Chapel Hill, the North Carolina men’s lacrosse team couldn’t keep up with a potent No. 13 UVA offense and fell to a sixth straight defeat by a score of 15-12.
The Tar Heels got off to a quick start as defender Cam Macri found the net for the first time this season about four minutes into the game. Virginia immediately tied it after a sloppy UNC turnover right in front of its own goal gifted the Cavaliers a close-range chance.
A great pass from midfielder Sean Morris set up attacker Andy Matthews and UNC retook the lead two minutes later, but once again UVA answered quickly -- this time on the power play -- through a wicked long range shot from Dox Aitken.
After failing to score on a rare three-minute stick penalty that went against the Tar Heels, the Cavaliers took the lead with three and a half minutes left to play in the first period on another Aitken snipe.
A flurry of Cavaliers offense before the period ended was stifled by some excellent goalkeeping from Alex Basill, and the game entered the second period with UVA leading, 3-2.
Less than a minute into the second period, midfielder William Perry rifled a shot past the UVA goalie from 30 feet out to tie things up at three apiece.
Mike D’Amario fired Virginia back into the lead and from there, the Cavaliers turned on the style, as a beautiful pass from Mikey Herring allowed D’Amario to fake out the UNC goalie with a cheeky behind-the-back finish from point-blank range.
The Tar Heels pulled one back a minute later through midfielder Ryan O’Connell, who netted his second goal of the season with a nice unassisted effort, but Virginia replied quickly once again after Michael Kraus fired into the bottom corner.
At this point the weather really started to become a factor, with the rain coming down in sheets on the already soggy Kenan Stadium turf.
The conditions came into play with three minutes left in the second period, when no less than three UNC players were unable to field a ground ball in their own zone, allowing D’Amario to score his third goal of the day.
From there, Virginia started to pile on the misery as Matt Moore netted his third of the season before Kraus scored his second of the day to stretch the lead to five heading into halftime.
The Tar Heels came out looking revitalized in the third quarter and cut the lead to three for a couple minutes thanks to two goals from attacker Matt Gavin -- his first two of the season. Virginia scored three straight before Timmy Kelly found the net. Gavin cut the lead to 13-9 with his third goal, giving him a hat trick.
The final quarter saw the teams trade goals, with McBride, defender Jack Rowlett, and midfielder Tanner Cook getting on the scoresheet for the Tar Heels, but any hope of a dramatic comeback quickly faded as Virginia’s offense continued to find the net time and time again. In the end, UNC fell 15-12.
Who stood out?
D’Amario led all players offensively with four goals on the day, while Matt Gavin led the home team with three. It was an even more impressive stat line for Gavin given that he hadn’t scored all season.
“It was alright,” Gavin said of his hat-trick. “Obviously wanted to win, especially against an ACC opponent like Virginia, but I was just trying to get something going and rally the team.”
In addition, goalkeepers Alex Rode and Alex Basill both turned in quality performances for UVA and UNC respectively. Rode made 10 saves to help ensure his team came out on top.
When was it decided?
Although the first quarter was tight throughout, the last time UNC held the lead was at 2-1. Virginia’s offense was truly dominant throughout the final three periods, and although at times it looked like the Tar Heels were starting to seize momentum, the deficit was never cut to less than three goals after the second quarter.
Why does it matter?
After winning six in a row to start their season, the Tar Heels came into this game on a wretched slump, having lost their last five in a row. A win could have stopped the bleeding and given UNC some much needed confidence heading into the final two games of the regular season, but it wasn’t meant to be. Attacker Chris Cloutier's consecutive games with a goal scored ended at 31 as the senior failed to find the back of the net.
The team now faces the daunting task of having to get an away win against No. 8 Syracuse in order to qualify for the postseason.
“It’s disappointing that we’ve lost six in a row,” head coach Joe Breschi said after the game. “But we’ve also won six in a row, so I think we have to understand what’s in front of us, focus on preparation… and continue to work towards the opportunities we’ll get.”
Where do they play next?
The team has a week to regroup before heading to upstate New York to take on the Orange at the Carrier Dome on April 14th at 4 p.m.
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