Senior Day is always a special day for the athletes, their families and their coaches. It is even more special when the outcome of the game is a win over a higher-ranked conference foe.
The seniors on the No. 4 North Carolina men’s lacrosse team have been instrumental in the team’s success this season and came up big again in Sunday’s 12-10 win over No. 2 Notre Dame.
Head Coach Joe Breschi spoke to the team during its 8:30 a.m. scouting report, knowing how important the game was to his most veteran players.
"This game is for the seniors," Breschi said. "It’s one of those where you don’t want to talk about each individual senior now because I feel like there’s so much left on our journey and we were just gonna write another chapter at two o’clock today."
Senior William Perry opened things up with his first goal of the match and his 25th of the season. Junior Nicky Solomon notched his 20th goal on the season on an assist from junior Henry Scherztinger to end the first quarter giving the Tar Heels a 2-1 lead.
Midway through the second quarter, Henry Scherztinger notched his first goal of the game and shortly after, senior Chris Gray notched his 38th goal of the year. Senior Justin Anderson added his name into the scoring column, giving the Tar Heels a 5-4 lead at halftime.
After Notre Dame tied things up early in the third quarter, the seniors really left their mark on the game by helping the team pull ahead again.
The momentum in the game seemed to shift when senior Tanner Cook scored a man-up goal on an assist from junior Jacob Kelly. After the goal, the Tar Heels were able to tack on three more unanswered goals, with seniors scoring two of them.
Gray scored an unassisted goal, for his second goal of the game less than a minute after Cook's score. Kelly was then able to net his 17th goal of the season. Then Anderson capped off the run with his second goal of the game and 18th of the season off an assist from Gray.
The lead created during this run wasn’t relinquished, and a goal from graduate transfer Connor McCarthy on an assist from senior Alex Trippi helped the Tar Heels end the quarter with a 10-7 lead.
Breschi was pleased with his team's performance, but was particularly impressed with what he saw during the third quarter stretch, especially from junior face-off midfielder Zac Tucci.
“The face-offs were a big thing we were working on," Breschi said. "Tucci did a wonderful job. I thought we handled that well, specifically in that third quarter run.”
While Gray, who notched his 39th goal and 32nd assist of the season during the game, was very aware of the contributions the seniors made in the win, he also acknowledged contributions made by underclassmen like Tucci.
“I think the underclassmen did a great job of playing for the upperclassmen, and I think the upperclassmen did a great job of leading," he said. "We got a great, complete game from everyone. It was a nice team win for sure.”
First-year goalkeeper Collin Krieg, who had 13 saves, recognized the importance of the game. It wasn't only a matchup between two top-five teams. It presented a huge opportunity to send the seniors off on a positive note as their regular season comes to a close on Sunday against Duke.
And both the seniors and underclassmen were up to the challenge.
“I feel like every ACC game is a battle, so when you win one it is definitely a confidence booster," Krieg said. "It proves that your team can beat anybody in the country. I consider the ACC a war zone: every game you don’t really know what the outcome is going to be. So anytime you can come out of there with a win, it is really just awesome.”