The No. 1 UNC men’s lacrosse team (7-0, 1-0 ACC) defeated the No. 8 Virginia Cavaliers (5-2, 0-2 ACC), 16-13, in front of a small-but-lively crowd during the team's ACC season-opener on Thursday night.
From the beginning, the teams were engaged in a fast-paced shootout, with a combined 58 shots resulting in 15 combined goals in the first half alone. The Tar Heels jumped out to an early lead, scoring three goals within the first five minutes of playing time, eventually going into the second half leading 11-4.
The Cavaliers started off the second half strong by rattling off four goals in the third period, swinging the momentum in their favor and narrowing UNC's lead down to within five goals.
An intense final period saw the teams trade a couple of goals each, before the Tar Heel defense was able to hold on and close out the game.
Despite the eventual loss, UVA won nearly two-thirds of all face-offs and took more shots on goal than the Tar Heels. The UNC defense played a huge role in the eventual victory, contesting nearly all shots and allowing just one goal while down a man.
Who stood out?
First-year goalkeeper Collin Krieg led the defensive effort with 20 saves — a career high — in his first ACC game. Junior defenseman Will Bowen, who leads the NCAA in total forced turnovers, also made a significant defensive contribution.
On the other side of the field, senior attackman Chris Gray, the reigning ACC Offensive Player of the Week, teamed up with junior attackman Nicky Solomon for a combined seven goals, 14 shots and four assists.
When was it decided?
A dominant first half saw the Tar Heels jump out to an early lead by controlling the pace of play and shutting down the opposing offense. But a contentious next two periods allowed the Cavaliers to creep within two, leaving the score at 15-13, Tar Heels, with a minute and a half to play.
UVA scored its last goal in the last two minutes of regulation, before going a man up following a push foul on UNC with less than a minute left. But, the Tar Heel defense was able to clear the ball and score one final time before time expired, taking the win.
Why does it matter?
After two seasons, UNC was able to get its first win over UVA since 2017. The team demonstrated an impressive ability to take care of the ball, allowing relatively few turnovers, especially in the first half, while forcing eleven from the Cavaliers.
Thursday’s win also kept the top-ranked Tar Heels’ record perfect as the team enters conference play. This marked the team's fifth victory over a ranked opponent this season and the second year in a row the team has established a 7-0 season record to start the year.
When do they play next?
Next up for the team is a home game on Saturday, March 20 against Air Force. The team will then close out the season with exclusively ACC opponents.
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