Puddles were starting to form on Kenan Memorial Stadium field.
Fans were seated high in the bleachers, hiding from the rain. In the midst of the dreary weather, the No. 20 North Carolina men’s lacrosse team (3-1) rushed midfield, surrounding a teammate who had just dived face-first into the mud prior to face-off.
“Our team is about energy,” junior midfielder William Perry said. “The rain, we love playing in it. We've played in it a lot the last two years. A lot of teams have a hard time playing in it, but we embrace it.”
The Tar Heels came out with a lot of energy, but ultimately fell to No. 18 Johns Hopkins, 11-10. UNC failed to yield results in the opening period after Johns Hopkins (1-2) held a 3-1 lead, and outshot the Tar Heels, 16-3.
UNC gained momentum in the second quarter after junior midfielder Justin Anderson assisted on a goal by Perry, which he celebrated by fist-pumping the air.
“It was just a good overall offensive play like we've been told to do,” Perry said. “Our whole career is here: just move the ball, look for the open guy. Justin fed me in the back side. I was able to finish it. I was just excited for me and my teammates, we had a good offensive play and we were able to capitalize on it.”
Perry’s goal was the second of a 5-0 run by UNC, during which sophomore midfielder Ara Atayan put two goals in the back of the net. Bringing energy off the bench, Atayan led the Tar Heels in goals, scoring his first career hat-trick. He netted this third goal with 5:04 remaining in the third quarter.
“I believe we were in an invert set,” Atayan said. “(Alex) Trippi was behind, and he was kinda working on his short stick, and then we got the ball to swing on the bench side and then Tanner (Cook) just hit me in. I think, personally, I wasn’t having too hard of a time with the footing even though the conditions were bad. And then from there it was just right to left and then shoot.”
Atayan credits his teammates for setting the tone and driving him all game. However, Atayan’s efforts weren’t enough to lead North Carolina to a win.
The Tar Heels doubled the Blue Jays in penalties, which proved to be an obstacle to the team’s success. In the fourth quarter, the Tar Heels faced an especially tough penalty after Cook hit a Johns Hopkins attackman in the head, and the Blue Jays played a man-up for two minutes. Johns Hopkins took advantage of the opportunity and scored to extend its lead to 10-8.
Head coach Joe Breschi expressed his disappointment regarding the penalties, noting the fact that Johns Hopkins scored two man-up goals as a result.
"In a game like that, one goal at the time, it's going to hurt you possession-wise but also give them opportunities to extend the lead," Breschi said. "...That's the difference in the game right there."
North Carolina countered with two goals from senior defender Jack Rowlett and senior attackman Timmy Kelly in the last minute, but came up one goal short, losing, 11-10.
“A loss is a loss,” Kelly said. “You can’t say that there’s silver linings all the time. But, we played tough. We played hard."
The Tar Heels plan to bring the energy going forward, rain or shine.
"We need to win next week," Kelly said. "Because last year we went seven in a row losses, and that’s not gonna happen this year. We’re gonna win next week.”
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