The No. 10 North Carolina men’s lacrosse team faced off against Mercer on Saturday. The Tar Heels (2-0) ran out 14-6 winners as their explosive attack proved too much for the Bears (1-1).
An opening goal from Mercer forced the Tar Heels to respond quickly. UNC attackman Brian Cameron did just that by scoring off a turnover. Though Mercer won the ensuing faceoff, they did not hold onto the ball for long, as another turnover resulted in junior attackman Chris Gray connecting with sophomore attackman Nicky Solomon for North Carolina's second goal. The sophomore would also go on to score UNC's third goal of the game. Gray later assisted another goal from Cameron, before Mercer scored a second goal to make the score 4-2 at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter saw UNC continue to extend its lead. The offense attack for the Bears turned sour when a turnover around North Carolina’s crease resulted in a goal from UNC first-year attackman Alex Breschi. The Tar Heels only showed defensive weakness one time in the period. Halfway through the quarter, a saved shot from Solomon quickly evolved into a counterattack that gave Mercer its third goal.
After that goal, the Tar Heels’ offense exploded. Senior midfielder Tanner Cook scored a goal from an assist by Gray, before scoring again just 38 seconds later. Junior Alex Trippi then scored UNC's eighth goal from a Gray assist. One more goal from junior midfielder Ryan O’Connell saw the half end with the Tar Heels on top 9-3.
In the first minute of the second half, Mercer answered its dreadful second quarter with a quick goal. A series of missed shots and turnovers by both the Bears and the Tar Heels later allowed Gray to score an unassisted goal that put the Tar Heels up 10-4.
A Mercer turnover allowed Solomon to connect with Cook for his third of the day, which was matched by two goals from Mercer. Another goal from Cameron closed out the third quarter with North Carolina on top 12-6.
The Tar Heels put up two more up in the fourth quarter, courtesy of Trippi and senior midfielder Justin Anderson. When the final whistle blew, North Carolina claimed a 14-6 victory.
Who stood out?
Solomon was the stand-out player for the Tar Heels, scoring two goals and assisting on four more. He collected a total of six points, which is the highest of his college career.
Much of the offensive also flowed through Gray, who was able to record four assists in addition to his unassisted goal. After scoring six points in the season opener against Colgate, he now has 11 in his first two games for North Carolina.
Cameron and Cook also impressed for UNC, with each scoring three goals and Cook dishing out one assist.
When was it decided?
After seeing the score close to 5-3 in the second quarter, the North Carolina offense shifted into another gear. Cook’s two goals in 38 seconds brought the margin to a comfortable 7-3 and sparked a fire in the attack that burned brightly until the end of the game, allowing the Tar Heels to see out the victory.
Why does it matter?
Led by Chris Gray totaling 11 points in his first two games after transferring from Boston University, this team has proved its power and cohesion on the attack. However, this game does show some of the defensive weaknesses present in the team, with Mercer being given many open shots and passes in the crease. If a day comes where the offense can’t find its footing, the defense will have to step up.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will continue its non-conference schedule next Saturday at Dorrance Field against Lafayette College.
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