The No. 8 North Carolina men’s lacrosse team has cruised through its early stretch of games this season, defeating its first three opponents by a combined 37 goals.
This staggering goal count can largely be attributed to the 24-8 victory the Tar Heels had against unranked Lafayette on Saturday, the team's first 20-goal game since the 2019 opener.
With all of this goal-scoring glory to go around, it could be easy for players to start worrying about their personal statistics.
But the Tar Heels don't.
Head coach Joe Breschi says it’s this unselfish team mentality that has allowed, and will continue to allow, his team to be successful.
“It’s so critical,” Breschi said. “If we buy in, which I think we’re doing a good job of, I think we can get even better about not caring who gets the credit: who gets the assist, who gets the goal. If we focus on us all scoring together, I think we can be a really, really talented offensive team.”
North Carolina’s sharing of the ball and scoring balance was evident in the first period. Their first six goals of the game were each scored by a different player.
This mentality isn’t just present at the top with the coaching staff — it's ingrained into the culture of the team.
Junior attackman Alex Trippi put up a career-high four goals, three of which came in the first half. His first half hat-trick was vital to the Tar Heels’ offensive production early on, especially in a time when the outcome of the game was still in question.
Trippi could’ve easily relished his career high scoring, but instead, he deflected responsibility — giving his teammates the credit for his success.
“Coach harped on playing super fast,” Trippi said. “That’s what he told me, that’s what he told the team. We did a good job of looking through the defense and the guys were able to find me. It’s really all on them.”
The Tar Heel’s team-mentality allowed them to weather a scoring storm mounted by Lafayette in the second quarter when they cut the UNC lead to three goals. Coming out of the half, North Carolina began the scoring onslaught that would result in the severely lopsided final score.
“I was impressed with how we handled the second half, in particular the third quarter,” Breschi said. “Sometimes you let teams hang around a little bit, and they build their confidence. You could see it in them when they made it a 9-6 game, all of a sudden the energy is starting to shift.”
But the energy certainly shifted back in the Tar Heels’ favor after the team gathered at halftime.
Junior attacker and preseason all-American Chris Gray recorded two goals and an assist early in the third quarter to keep the Leopards at bay. On the day, he was responsible for seven of North Carolina’s 24 goals, putting away three goals of his own and assisting on four others. But like Trippi, Gray didn’t take the credit for his team’s success — he credited the team’s ability to come together to make the proper adjustments.
“When we gathered together at halftime, we just realized we were playing a little sloppy and not playing to our potential,” Gray said. “The captains and their leadership, I really give it to them for rallying everyone together. Getting us to step up as a collective team was what really turned it around.”
These first three games have been smooth sailing for the Tar Heels, but their next matchup against No. 11 Johns Hopkins this Saturday will be a jump in the level of competition they’ve faced thus far.
Both Breschi and his players have stressed the importance of continuing to attack game preparation with the same ferocity, regardless of who they’re playing. The head coach says if his team can play “their brand of lacrosse,” they’ll be ready to make this jump.
These first few games have certainly boosted the team’s confidence in this brand.
“Going into Hopkins next week, it’s a great game on the road for us to showcase how hard we’ve been working,” Gray said. “We feel like when we play our game 100 percent, full speed, we can play with anyone.”
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