First-year Zachary Tucci started the momentum shift, winning the face-off and bringing the ball downfield.
The Tar Heels whipped it around in front of the goal, biding time. Tanner Cook finally got a look he liked off of a pass by Ara Atayan and sent it to the back of the net to put UNC up by two.
On its next trip down the field, the team continued to exhibit patience on offense.
Playing man-up after a penalty on Harvard, the offense formed an arc around the goal, passing it back and forth across the field. When the ball reached Alex Trippi on the right side, Anderson made a sudden break towards the net. Trippi delivered the entry pass to him, and Anderson gathered the ball with space right in front of the goal and scored, giving UNC a three-goal lead.
But with 2:38 to go, Harvard netted a goal and UNC received a slashing penalty to go man-down for one minute. The momentum leaned back in Harvard’s favor.
Again, Tucci won the face-off. He threw it forward to Anderson, who sped upfield and had a one-on-one look with the goalie.
Anderson knew that from the distance he was at, the odds weren't good of making it past Harvard’s Kyle Mullin, who had 14 saves in the game. He heeded his coach’s prior warning.
“I just realized, ‘Look we have to settle down the ball, take our time,’” Anderson said.
He opted to pass to a teammate on the left. A few seconds later, senior Andy Matthews dished the ball back to him, right in front of the goal.
He waited one more split second, just enough time for the goalie to step forward and try to check the ball from his stick. With the goal now open, Anderson hurled it straight into the back of the net for his third goal of the game.
Harvard had no answer, turning it over on its final two possessions as UNC won, 16-11.
Head coach Joe Breschi noted that Anderson looked like a different player after his wake-up call.
“You know, it was a tough start for Justin Anderson,” Breschi said. “And then all of a sudden, he makes some of the biggest plays of the game in the second half. I just couldn't be more proud of his effort.”
He also credited Matthews and senior defender Jack Rowlett for helping take control of the tempo to close out the game.
“Those are things that aren't on the stats but are so important, to have that senior leadership,” Breschi said.
UNC now heads into back-to-back ranked matchups against No. 17 Johns Hopkins and No. 6 Denver.
The top-20 matchups will be much anticipated. But after Saturday’s win, the Tar Heels are prepared to be patient as they look to continue an undefeated start to the season.
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