After an impressive 12-10 win against No. 2 Notre Dame on Sunday, the No. 3 North Carolina men’s lacrosse team has now set its eyes on a revenge game against its rival, No. 2 Duke.
It’s been nearly a month since the two teams met in Durham to face off in a matchup that featured the then No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams in the nation. The Blue Devils got the best of the Tar Heels, winning a 12-11 overtime thriller to cement themselves at the top of the rankings that week.
The April 1 loss to Duke began a two-game losing skid for UNC, which had been a perfect 8-0 leading up to the showdown. The Tar Heels dropped the next game to Virginia, but they quickly got back to their winning ways in the next two games.
North Carolina first dismantled No. 9 Syracuse at the Carrier Dome, 21-9, which was the highest scoring output by the Tar Heels against an ACC opponent since 1994.
The following week, the Tar Heels hosted the Fighting Irish at home on Senior Day. In what was a back-and-forth battle, UNC edged the Fighting Irish at the end of the game after a William Perry goal put the Tar Heels up 12-9. UNC ultimately won the game, 12-10, giving the Tar Heels a big boost of momentum heading into the matchup against Duke.
The Blue Devils' path after the first UNC-Duke showdown was similar to that of the Tar Heels. After the win against UNC, Duke dropped its next game to Notre Dame, 13-8.
But the Blue Devils quickly rallied back, winning their next two games. First, Duke knocked off No. 4 Virginia in a 13-12 overtime win. The following game was deja vu for the Blue Devils, as they again won 13-12 in overtime, that time over Notre Dame.
Both teams will head into this final regular season showdown riding a two-game win streak, with all wins coming against top-10 opponents.
To produce different results from the first time the two teams met this season, the Tar Heels must play to their strengths, one of which has been face-offs. Led by junior Zac Tucci and sophomore Andrew Tyeryar, the Tar Heels have won the face-off battle in nine of their 12 matches, all of which resulted in wins.
Two of the three times UNC lost in the face-offs, the team ended up losing the entire game — including in its first match against Duke this season. In that game, UNC took advantage of the face-off win opportunities it did have, scoring goals within the first 10 seconds of the second and third quarters, respectively.
The Tar Heels must also be sound on the defensive side if they want to contend. Their first match against Duke proved to be a defensive battle.
First-year goalkeeper Collin Krieg finished with 14 saves that game, but his presence was especially important toward the end of the game. The Tar Heels were able to shut out Duke in the fourth quarter, which helped the team come back and send the game to overtime.
Due to the pandemic, the winner of this rivalry game will receive more than just bragging rights. With no ACC Tournament this year, this game will be crucial in determining the seeding of both teams in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
The two teams will duke it out in Kenan Memorial Stadium on Sunday at 4 p.m.
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