Loyola served the North Carolina men's lacrosse team a dish of revenge on Saturday afternoon at Kenan Memorial Stadium.
The last time UNC faced Loyola was in the 2016 NCAA Tournament semifinal, when the Tar Heels beat the Greyhounds to advance to their first NCAA Championship game since 1993. The group went on to win the program’s fifth national title.
Though there was much less at stake when the two teams met again in Saturday’s preseason matchup, Loyola showed no mercy and cruised past North Carolina, 15-10.
Back in 2016, the Tar Heels were competing in their tenth consecutive NCAA Tournament and en route to win it all when they took on the Greyhounds. This season, they look to bounce back from missing postseason play last year for the first time under head coach Joe Breschi.
UNC senior attackman Timmy Kelly, who scored the first goal on Saturday, was a first-year in that semifinal matchup three years ago. Kelly said he didn’t give that game much thought before the scrimmage.
“That was my freshman year … that’s behind me,” Kelly said. “That’s behind us. Most of these guys haven’t won a championship, so most of the guys don’t know what that was like.”
For Kelly’s younger teammates to have an experience like the one he had as a first-year, UNC will have to find ways to beat teams that are at the caliber of Loyola. The Greyhounds are the No. 6 team in the U.S. Lacrosse Magazine’s preseason rankings.
Breschi wanted to use the exhibition to gauge how his Tar Heels, who are ranked No. 12 by the same publication, measure up against the best teams in the country. For most of the contest, his team looked outmatched.
Kelly’s goal just 1:42 into the action put North Carolina on the board first. But Loyola responded with three goals of its own in the next three minutes of play.
The first score of the contest was Kelly’s only one of the afternoon and one of four for UNC in the first half.
“I should’ve built off that and figured out how to shoot better,” Kelly said after the exhibition.
UNC's defense couldn’t make up for its lack of offensive output, and Loyola took a commanding 9-4 lead into the locker room at halftime. Four of the Greyhounds' nine first-half goals came from sophomore attackman Kevin Lindley, who finished the scrimmage with a team-high eight goals.
The Tar Heels opened the second half the same way they opened the game. Senior attackman Andy Matthews found junior midfielder William Perry for a goal in the first two minutes of the third quarter that cut UNC’s deficit to four.
But Lindley, whose 37 goals were tied for the third-most scored among first-years in the country last season, couldn’t be stopped. The sophomore scored four more times and helped give his team an eight-goal cushion heading into the final 15 minutes of play.
When the contest was all but out of reach, UNC’s younger players got their feet wet. First-year attackmen Jacob Kelly and Brian Cameron and sophomore midfielder Colin Munro all scored in the fourth quarter.
“We don’t want to be in April form right now,” Breschi said. “We want to be kind of building towards where we want to get to. That experience for us against really good teams is what it’s all about.”
As one of 12 current players who were on UNC’s 2016 national championship-winning team, Kelly knows what it will take for the Tar Heels to get back to the pinnacle of college lacrosse.
If nothing else, UNC’s performance in the scrimmage reminded him of how far his team has to go to be the team he thinks it can be.
“I believe this team’s capable of being a top-five team,” Kelly said. “But right now, we’re a bottom-five team. So it’s time to get there. And we will be a top-five by the end of the season.”
The UNC department of athletics provided unofficial statistics for this story.
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