The rain came down hard as the No. 4 North Carolina men’s lacrosse team hosted Jacksonville on Saturday evening in Chapel Hill, but that didn't seem to alter the Tar Heels’ dominant early season play.
The Tar Heels beat Jacksonville 18-7 after an impressive win in their season opener against Denver. The Tar Heels are now 2-0 on the season and ranked No. 2 in ACC play behind only Duke, with preseason favorite Syracuse not having begun its season yet.
“I was really, really pleased with the energy we brought to the table,” head coach Joe Breschi said. “We knew they were a pretty emotional team, so for us, (our goal) was to match that emotion or bring even more.”
The Dolphins did not let the Tar Heels run away with a dramatic lead in the first half, closely trailing behind them at halftime, 9-5. Although UNC undeniably has more offensive depth, Jacksonville plays with a midfield-driven offense that likes to run, so the Tar Heels had to make some adjustments defensively.
“Our defense did a great job settling in and not letting them get easy transition goals” senior midfielder William Perry said.
Perry carried UNC’s offensive effort after halftime, scoring a quick goal in the first 15 seconds of the third quarter and securing a hat trick in the game’s final minutes. The Tar Heels outscored the Dolphins 9-2 in the second half and outshot them 53-24 throughout the whole game.
“Just being able to move the ball around and be confident in the other five guys like they are with me and the other guys out there as well is what drove that scoring stretch,” Perry said.
Chris Gray, the Tar Heels' senior attackman who was named the ACC Men's Lacrosse Offensive Player of the Week prior to the game, led the team with four goals and three assists. Senior Tanner Cook and juniors Nicky Solomon, Brian Cameron and Jacob Kelly each finished with two goals, while senior Alex Trippi and sophomore Andrew Tyeryar each added one. First-year goalkeeper Collin Krieg made seven saves in goal.
A notable part of UNC’s performance was its ability to lock down defensively while experiencing player deficits. At one point in the second half, a stick violation closely followed by a pushing penalty forced the Tar Heels into a man-down situation. But UNC did not let Jacksonville capitalize on that advantage, still managing to outscore them 1-0 during this time.
Although North Carolina is stacked with offensive and defensive threats, Breschi believes the team still needs to work on putting together a full game of solid lacrosse.
“We talked about closing games and closing our opportunities,” Breschi said. “The fourth quarter was not great for the defense last week, and the fourth quarter was not great for the offense this week."
Looking ahead, the Tar Heels are focusing on themselves, drowning out any doubts other people may have about their abilities and taking the season one game at a time.
“We think we are the best team in the country,” Perry said. “We don’t really care about the standings, so we are just focused on the next game.”