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Sunday June 20th

Second quarter run buries No. 1 UNC men's lacrosse in NCAA semifinal

UNC senior midfielder William Perry (3) takes a shot on goal during the Tar Heels' 15-12 victory against Duke on Sunday, May 2. With the victory, UNC and Duke share the 2021 ACC regular season title.
Buy Photos UNC senior midfielder William Perry (3) takes a shot on goal during the Tar Heels' 15-12 victory against Duke on Sunday, May 2. With the victory, UNC and Duke share the 2021 ACC regular season title.

Eleven minutes and fifty-eight seconds brought on the end for the North Carolina men's lacrosse team.

In that second quarter span, there were six consecutive goals. Players in dark blue jerseys with Virginia printed on their chests in orange scored every one. 

Thirty minutes later, it was over.

Even for No. 1 North Carolina — the team that always rode its opponent as the clock ticked down, dominated possession in moments of desperation and found a way to score when it mattered — the deficit was too much to overcome on Saturday.

The nation’s top-ranked team was stopped one game short of the one that really mattered, falling to Virginia in the NCAA Tournament semifinal. 

As the buzzer rang to signal the end of the Tar Heels’ season, UNC was unable to get a last-second shot off in front of Virginia’s cage. It was UVA 12, UNC 11. 

“We had our chances, but I give our kids a ton of credit — all year they’ve been resilient, they’ve been tough, they’ve been gritty,” head coach Joe Breschi said. “We just kept fighting and battling, and we just ran out of time.”

With just under 13 minutes to go in the second quarter, the Tar Heels took a 4-3 lead — and they didn’t look to be slowing down. All four had come from three of North Carolina’s most reliable veteran stars: graduate student Connor McCarthy and seniors William Perry and Chris Gray. 

All year the Tar Heels relied on a varied attack, but when their stars were clicking, the team bordered on unstoppable. 

However, after Perry scored the fourth and final first half goal for North Carolina, the Cavaliers showed that their talent was equally capable of ending a game in a matter of minutes.

Virginia attackman Matt Moore drew first blood in the run, juking to his left from behind the net and bouncing the ball through first-year goalkeeper Collin Krieg’s legs. UVA 4, UNC 4. 

At the 6:43 mark, attackman Charlie Bertrand gave the Cavaliers the lead. UVA 5, UNC 4. That’s when the real run started. 

Forty-nine seconds later, another goal. UVA 6, UNC 4. Fifteen seconds later, another. Just over a minute later, another. With 16 seconds remaining in the half, the Cavaliers struck again. 

UVA 9, UNC 4. A halftime deficit that all but struck the nail in the coffin with the North Carolina team facing the reigning national champions. 

“There wasn’t gonna be too big of a question mark coming out of (the) half, we just said ‘fellas, there’s a surge coming, there’s a storm coming,” Virginia head coach Lars Tiffany said. “Don’t get involved in the ups and downs and the emotions, just stay steady and make the next play.”

In the second half, North Carolina did find its game again. The Tar Heels’ stars were dominant — with Gray and Perry combining for six points in the half. They won the faceoff battle, picked up more ground balls, earned five man-up opportunities and outscored Virginia seven to three. 

Perry was the biggest bright spot for a North Carolina offense that tied its lowest scoring output of the season on Saturday, as he finished with five goals earned through his powerful long-range shooting. 

“Will is our best shooter, just from range, he can stretch the defense,” Breschi said. “He’s done that all year, he’s stretched the defense and he was able to put some big goals in when we needed it to make a run in the end.”

But in the end, 30 minutes just wasn’t enough time to avenge the 12 in the second quarter that ended UNC’s season. As the final whistle blew, the Tar Heels were diving on the ground in front of the Cavaliers’ cage, unable to come up with the ball to take one final shot. 

“It was pretty incredible, the way we were able to rally back and cut the deficit down,” Gray said. “No quit in our team. I think that’s the most important part, and that’s something to be proud of for us is that we didn’t give up. We battled back.”

@zachycrain 

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com



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