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The Daily Tar Heel

Preview: UNC men's lacrosse will mix fresh faces, experienced vets in 2020 campaign

William Perry goal celebration Justin Anderson Andy Matthews

UNC junior midfielder William Perry (3) celebrates after scoring a goal with teammates Justin Anderson (21) and Andy Matthews (12) during UNC's 12-10 home loss against the University of Denver on Saturday, March 3, 2019 at the UNC Soccer and Lacrosse Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C. This was the UNC Men's Lacrosse team's inaugural game at the UNC Soccer and Lacrosse Stadium.

After a couple of lackluster seasons, the North Carolina men's lacrosse team will certainly be looking to end its NCAA Tournament drought in the 2020 season. Head coach Joe Breschi and his squad have missed the last two tournaments, the first misses in his 11-year tenure as UNC's head coach.

The Tar Heels finished the 2019 regular season on a three-game losing streak in ACC play last year and watched their tournament hopes slip through their grasp in a narrow 14-13 loss to Virginia in the ACC semifinals.

With nine seniors, plenty of returning talent and a handful of promising fresh faces, UNC is ranked 10th in Inside Lacrosse's preseason poll. The team enters the season looking to turn its fortunes around and get back to the Big Dance.

The attack

The Tar Heels lost two key players, Timmy Kelly and Andy Matthews, in the attack. They combined for 68 points last season, with Kelly contributing 20 goals and 16 assists and Matthews recording 13 goals and 19 assists.

North Carolina will be looking to make up for this loss with junior transfer Chris Gray. Gray finished the 2019 season tied for third in points per game in the NCAA, averaging 6.53 points per contest. He was a key recruit during the offseason, and it will be interesting to see if he can maintain the high level of production that he demonstrated at Boston University.

Junior Alex Trippi and sophomore Nicky Solomon provide returning offensive output to the Tar Heels' attack. Each of them racked up at least 19 points and appeared in all 15 games last season.

The midfield

Senior captain William Perry will be a crucial return for the Tar Heels in the midfield after Perry anchored the offense last year, leading the team in scoring with 26 goals. His co-captain, Justin Anderson, also offers a consistent offensive option for the North Carolina offense. Anderson tallied 25 points last season on 19 goals and six assists.

Both Perry and Anderson played in all 16 games as first-years on the last UNC team to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. Perry and Anderson's leadership in the midfield will be important when the team tries to bring together new talent and experienced guys to create a successful squad.

The defense 

The North Carolina defense will be led this season by senior captain Cam Macri, who switched positions from a short-stick defensive midfielder after his sophomore season.

The Tar Heels will anticipate the return of redshirt first-year Will Bowen, who missed last year due to a knee injury in the preseason. Bowen was the top defensive recruit in the 2018 class and will be expected to play at the high level of production that North Carolina needs.

UNC will also bring in three four-star defensive recruits, Matt Wright, Zach Young and Clay Lanham, to fill in the gaps left by the six senior defensemen that graduated last year. These first-years will have to quickly adjust to the collegiate speed of play to give UNC more depth on the back line.

Sophomore Caton Johnson appears to be the obvious starting goalkeeper for the Tar Heels. He played in nine games last season, winning the starting job for the final six. Johnson received the 2019 ACC Freshman of the Year award and begins 2020 as a member of the Preseason All-ACC Team.

The competition

The Tar Heels will kick off their 2020 campaign on Saturday at noon when they face off against Colgate. UNC has a tough schedule that features six competitions against preseason top-10 opponents, including the reigning national champion Virginia Cavaliers. 

It will be crucial that the Tar Heels quickly blend new and returning talent to create a unified team if they want to accomplish that hope of finally reaching NCAA tournament play.

@MaryMacPorter1

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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