The North Carolina men’s lacrosse team slipped by the Jacksonville Dolphins, 10-9, Saturday morning in Jacksonville, Fla. in the team’s first scrimmage of the 2019 season. Junior midfielder Justin Anderson scored four goals to lead the Tar Heels.
UNC took control early and led Jacksonville, 5-1, at the end of the first quarter. But it didn’t take long for the Dolphins to climb back into the game.
Jacksonville responded with five goals of its own and kept North Carolina off the scoreboard in the second quarter. Head coach Joe Breschi said his team’s failure to make every possession count resulted in 12 first-half turnovers.
“I think we were careless with our possessions,” Breschi said. “And maybe part of it was jumping out to that lead and understanding that we’re shooting the ball well. We kinda forgot how we got there.”
North Carolina had already shot the ball 21 times by halftime, but didn’t have much to show for it. In comparison, Jacksonville only attempted 15 first-half shots and 25 total. The Tar Heels trailed the Dolphins, 6-5, at halftime.
“I think we got their goalie hot, instead of taking quality shots offensively,” Breschi said.
Anderson, who had three of his four goals in the second half, took over for the Tar Heels the rest of the way.
Six different UNC players, including Anderson, scored in the contest. Junior midfielder Tanner Cook scored twice, and senior midfielder Jesse Cuccia, junior midfielder William Perry, junior midfielder Matt Gavin and first-year midfielder Henry Schertzinger scored a goal each.
Anderson said that even though he carried much of the offensive load against the Dolphins, he doesn’t feel he needs to be the Tar Heels’ go-to scorer for them to have success this season.
“I think that a great thing about our offense is that at any given point, any player on the field can score,” Anderson said.
After ending the third quarter tied, the Tar Heels did just enough in the final frame. UNC outscored Jacksonville, 3-2, in the fourth quarter.
North Carolina escaped the Sunshine State with a one-point victory over Jacksonville. Still, Breschi was far from satisfied with the performance of his team.
“I think we just kind of got through it, instead of playing with that killer instinct that we’ve worked hard to make our program have,” Breschi said.
Who stood out?
Anderson was the difference for UNC. The junior scored two of his four goals in the fourth quarter to help the Tar Heels get the narrow win.
When was it decided?
When Breschi scheduled the scrimmage against Jacksonville, he saw an opportunity to test his club against an “up-and-coming team that’s hungry for respectability.”
After the Tar Heels’ performance, Breschi said they didn’t pass the test.
The Dolphins gave the Tar Heels a run for their money, and UNC needed a strong fourth-quarter push to head back to Chapel Hill with the win.
Why does it matter?
Since winning the NCAA Championship in 2016, North Carolina hasn’t competed at a championship level. The Tar Heels lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Albany in 2017, and failed to qualify for it last year.
Saturday’s scrimmage offered the first look at a team that hopes to rebound this season. Though the on-field display wasn’t one of a championship team, Breschi said he isn’t worried yet.
“We have a lot of the pieces, but I think we’ve got a long way to go to get there,” Breschi said. “I think that’s what January practice is for (and) what January scrimmages are for — to really work towards that.”
When do they play next?
North Carolina will scrimmage for the second and final time against Loyola at 12 p.m. on Jan. 26 in Chapel Hill.
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