The No. 1 North Carolina men’s lacrosse team remained undefeated on Saturday after beating Air Force, 15-5, moving the team to 8-0 on the season.
The story of the game could not be written without mentioning senior attacker Chris Gray, who led the Tar Heels' offensive attack with two goals and six assists.
“At the end of the day, he is a special player," head coach Joe Breschi said. "You talk about how he compares to some of the greats at Carolina. He’s ridiculous. He makes everyone around him so much better."
The Tar Heels started the game off slow, holding on to a narrow 3-2 lead at the end of the first quarter. Gray, as Breschi said, became the conductor of the team, exploding for a four-point second quarter to help jump-start the Tar Heels toward victory.
“A day like today," Breschi said, "when they're playing zone, you need someone to organize ... we weren’t as organized as we should’ve been and (Gray) brought them all back in the second quarter, and we were able to make that run and separate."
North Carolina, under Gray's leadership, never really took its foot off of the pedal after that quarter. The Tar Heels went on a 8-0 run and were in control the rest of the way. But Gray kept pushing, even notching an assist to start the fourth quarter, when a UNC win was all but assured.
“I try my best to get everyone involved and share the ball and play just a team offense," Gray said. "It’s not really about who gets the credit. As long as we’re winning games, we’re happy."
Gray’s effect on the team was a significant factor in North Carolina’s win, but midfielder William Perry, another senior, helped UNC stay in control with two second-half goals. He finished with a game-high four, with Gray assisting on two of those four goals.
“In our offense, nobody really cares who scores," Perry said. "Everyone was playing within the offense and it just happened to be me who scored. It’s just about the end result of winning. Being able to play on our team that’s just so unselfish is very fun."
The schedule of the top-ranked Tar Heels won't let up from here, with games against No. 2 Duke, No. 9 Virginia and No. 5 Syracuse all on the horizon in April. To hear them tell it, though, the Tar Heels are moving into this tough run with confidence.
“Our coaches do a really good job of making sure that we have our heads on straight," Perry said. "There’s no real pressure on us because we don’t look into the rankings or what everyone is saying. We’re gonna practice and prepare for each opponent that we have. We get one percent better everyday. That’s something the coaches say — they preach that.”
Gray, the Tar Heels' undisputed offensive leader, will inevitably be a big factor in these upcoming games. Through eight games this season, Gray has 53 points — made up of 30 goals and 23 assists.
If the top team in the nation is to remain perfect through ACC play, there is no doubt that more solid outings from Gray will be key.
“We want to win the ACC and then ultimately accomplish our end goal of winning a national championship,” Gray said. “I think that would be really special.”