Minutes after the final buzzer sounded in the Saturday afternoon contest at UNC Lacrosse Stadium, North Carolina first-year attackman Nicky Solomon and Syracuse senior attackman Nate Solomon posed together for pictures.
The brothers were surrounded by about 30 family members and friends, many of whom made the trip from their hometown of Alpharetta, Ga. and sported custom-made T-shirts that displayed the Solomons’ jersey numbers and logos of both programs. After No. 18 UNC’s 12-9 loss to No. 9 Syracuse, Nate couldn’t help but brag a little to his younger brother the first chance he got.
“He just told me, he goes, ‘Yeah, I had one more point than you,’” Nicky laughed. “Because I guess he’s counting in his head, which is kinda the competitive side we always have.”
Both the Solomons scored multiple times: Nate led the Orange (8-3, 2-2 ACC) with a team-leading three goals and Nicky tied for a team-leading two goals for the Tar Heels (7-5, 1-2 ACC).
Only three years apart in age, the two grew up playing on the same lacrosse teams, most notably playing one season together at Centennial High School in Alpharetta, Ga. Even as teammates, their relationship remained competitive, and they’d always push each other to work harder.
As strong as his bond with his older brother is, Nicky said he attempted to treat Nate like any other opponent when he stepped onto the field for the first time on Saturday.
“I tried like not to recognize that he was my brother out there,” Nicky said. “Which is kinda hard. I guess we just played our own games.”
When Syracuse scored its second goal just 3:26 into the game, it was Nicky who put an end to the Orange’s short-lived scoring run. UNC senior attackman Andy Matthews connected with Nicky on a pass from behind the goal, and the first-year put the ball in the back of the net to give the Tar Heels their first goal.
Nicky’s opening goal sparked a series of six consecutive scores for UNC. The run lasted 12:19 and didn’t end until two and a half minutes into the second quarter when the Orange scored their third goal.
In the stretch, Nicky had a hand in two other goals, too. He scored again on another assist from Matthews with 6:33 remaining in the first quarter. Then, he assisted fellow first-year attackman Brian Cameron to score less than two minutes into the second quarter.
But those plays were the last of Nicky’s offensive contributions in the game, as Syracuse dominated for most of the remaining game. The Orange went on a four-goal run midway through the second quarter, capped off by Nate’s first goal of the afternoon with 6:13 left until halftime, which tied the game at 6-6.
Nate scored again shortly after UNC junior midfielder William Perry mishandled a pass with 10 seconds remaining in the first half. Syracuse junior defensive midfielder Peter Dearth scooped up the ground ball and passed it to redshirt sophomore defender Brett Kennedy at midfield, who then found Nate past the restraining line on the left side of the field.
The 5-foot-10 senior hesitated before blowing by Tar Heel senior defenseman Jake Peden to line up a straight-on goal that gave the Orange an 11-7 lead going into the final quarter.
With momentum built from outscoring UNC 4-0 in the third quarter, Syracuse stayed aggressive on both sides of the ball. The strategy proved to be effective, especially when Orange senior attackman Bradley Voigt intercepted Tar Heel first-year goalkeeper Caton Johnson’s outlet pass in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter.
Voigt then slung the ball to Nate, who scored his team’s 12th and final goal from the right edge of the crease. Nate’s hat trick also gave Syracuse a five-goal cushion with less than 10 minutes to play.
Though Nate joked with his little brother about outscoring him, he spoke highly of the younger Solomon after the game.
“I’m really proud of what he did out there,” Nate said of Nicky. “And he’s just gonna keep growing; he’s just scratching the surface as a player.”
The two are each other’s toughest competition. Nate is second on the Orange with 21 goals on the season; Nicky is second for the Tar Heels with 18. But their competitive fire is something they turn off when not on the playing field.
Leading up to Saturday’s matchup, the brothers texted back and forth, discussing when Nate would be in town and where they’d get dinner on Friday night. Nate says they usually save the friendly jabs and trash talk for game day.
The two could possibly face each other again in the ACC Championship at the month’s end. For now, though, the elder Solomon joked that he’ll enjoy being able to gloat over the victory to Nicky.
“That’s huge bragging rights,” Nate said with a smirk. “I got one-up on him. Hopefully, we don’t see them again; they’re a really good team. But we probably will.”
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.