The No. 5 North Carolina men’s lacrosse team (9-2, 2-2 ACC) got a much-needed win against No. 9 Syracuse (5-4, 1-3 ACC) on Saturday afternoon, crushing the Orange, 21-9, in the Carrier Dome.
North Carolina’s day got started early, as the Tar Heels kept up offensive pressure and with some good passing, Jacob Kelly found Connor McCarthy for the first goal of the day. From there, the floodgates opened.
The Orange barely had a chance to touch the ball before UNC was up 4-0 in the first five minutes, with the next two goals being scored by Justin Anderson.
The Orange responded well out of the media timeout, finally getting to possess the ball and slow down the game. Redshirt senior Stephen Rehfuss found Jamie Trimboli in the slot, and he buried his shot to get his team on the board.
McCarthy earned his second goal of the day with just over two minutes left in the first quarter after scooping up a rebound and tucking it in the top corner of the goal, putting the Tar Heels up, 7-1.
After the teams traded goals, UNC sophomore attacker Lance Tillman took the ball and spun behind the net, juking out Syracuse senior Peter Dearth and running back in front of the net before ripping a shot underneath the goalie to make it a 10-2 game.
The Tar Heels' pressure got a little too aggressive halfway through the second, as Will Bowen slashed Tucker Dordovic, who retained possession of the ball and scored. While up a man as a result of the penalty, Dordovic scored again, earning a hat trick and bringing the Orange to within six.
Though Dordovic’s heroics provided a bit of a threat, North Carolina responded with two more goals to close the first half with a 12-4 lead, giving Syracuse its largest halftime deficit of the season.
The second half started a bit quieter for both teams, as UNC managed to work the clock by maintaining possession and drawing a cross-checking penalty to go up a man. The advantage allowed for the Tar Heels to take their time and for William Perry to score.
The game didn’t have much drama the rest of the way, as the defense Syracuse the rest of the way. The offense did its part to grind the clock and continue scoring throughout the game, closing out the 21-9 win.
Who stood out?
The Tar Heels got their entire team in on the action, as the nation’s leading offense had 12 different players score a goal and five different players log an assist.
UNC head coach Joe Breschi said that his midfield units — which accounted for 13 of his team’s goals — stood out to him.
“We’re generating so much out of the midfield, which has been fantastic,” he said. “That’s what we’ve stressed with that second midfield unit in particular, because we’ve been riding the first so much in the early part of the season. It’s great to see the second midfield come out and perform.”
When was it decided?
The closest Syracuse got in the game was during the second quarter, when Dordovic scored twice in a row to trim the deficit to six. From there, UNC maintained a solid lead for the remainder of the contest.
The Tar Heels dominated the Orange in possession — winning in pretty much every statistical category — but especially in shots (59-38), shots on goal (35-22) and ground balls (43-31).
“It was just incredible focus by our guys,” Breschi said. “We challenged them to play with an edge all week, and I think we proved that today.”
Why does it matter?
After starting the season 8-0, the Tar Heels had dropped consecutive nail-biters to No. 4 Duke and No. 3 Virginia, and with two more top-5 teams on the schedule, getting a win on Saturday was crucial.
UNC took care of business on Syracuse’s senior day in a building they hadn’t won in since 1991, when they beat the Orange, 19-13, in the NCAA Tournament.
With their dominant performance, North Carolina was able to find the defensive consistency to support its high scoring offense and pull out a complete team victory.
“That’s what was so awesome about today’s performance,” said Breschi. “In the last two weeks, either the offense was playing great, or the defense was playing great, but we weren’t doing it together.
“Today was the first time in a while where we’ve played great offense, great defense, and special teams was solid across the board.”
When do they play next?
UNC will return home next weekend to take on the No. 2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Sunday, April 25th at 2 p.m.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.