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Young talent and veteran play guide No. 6 UNC men's lacrosse past Colgate

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Graduate attackman Chris Grey (4) attacks the goal at the lacrosse game against Colgate at Dorrance Field on Feb. 13, 2022. UNC won the game 15-9.

A versatile combination of veteran experience and young talent helped the No. 6 North Carolina men’s lacrosse team cruise past Colgate on Sunday.

The Tar Heels torched the Raiders in the first half, 12-4, en route to a 15-9 victory. As expected, senior captain attackers Chris Gray and Jacob Kelly led the attack. Gray finished with a team-high three goals, and Kelly with two goals and two assists.

“The chemistry for our attack is unbelievable,” first-year face-off midfielder Chase Mullins said. “We’re only getting better from here on out.”

To sum up the seasoned offense’s scoring ability in one play? Senior attacker Nicky Solomon had the ball at midfield with less than five seconds left in the half. The Tar Heels were already up 11-4.

Solomon heaved it to Gray, who slung it into the net with 0.3 seconds left on the clock.

“Oh boy, (Gray’s) special,” head coach Joe Breschi said. “I’m gonna embrace every opportunity we get to watch him play.”

Gray, who returned for his graduate season, was named Preseason Player of the Year by USA Lacrosse Magazine. He’s on track to break UNC’s all-time scoring record in just two and a half years playing for North Carolina, and when opposing coaches fluster over defensive matchups, they almost always elect to double-team the elusive 5-foot-7 attacker.

But as with any sport, double-teaming opens up scoring opportunities for other players. And so, the Tar Heels capitalized on the attention Gray drew. Sunday welcomed a new rising star to Dorrance Field: first-year attacker Dewey Egan, who excelled in his collegiate debut with two goals and one assist.

The San Diego native ran the offense for a four-minute stretch in the second period. First, he scored an unassisted goal to put UNC up 8-3.

Less than three minutes later, junior attacker Lance Tillman zinged the ball to Egan, who made a quick scoop on the left for another goal.

And finally, an Egan dime to senior midfielder Harrison Schertzinger extended the UNC lead to seven points.

“Obviously (Egan’s) a huge threat,” Breschi said. “And he played I think maybe 10-12 minutes.”

Standing at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, Egan stands out from his fellow attackers — there’s only one other attacker on the roster taller than 5-foot-10.

“He’s going to have important minutes for us this year, and we’re gonna need him,” Kelly said. “He’s an absurd athlete — big body. He’s gonna do some really great things at this school.”

Another player who shined in their debut was Mullins, who led the team with four ground balls and went 9-16 on face-offs. The rest of the team combined for 3-11 on face-offs.

“When (Zac) Tucci was struggling a little bit, we thought we’d toss in Chase and see what he could do,” Breschi said. “He did a great job.”

The future is bright for the Tar Heels, who are set on making a title run after falling short in 2021.

They’re as complete of a team as their No. 6 ranking implies — a juggernaut offense, stout defense and battle-hardened veterans at every position. From here, it’s just the younger stars gaining more experience, which Breschi emphasizes can’t be taught.

“You’ll always know what you’re gonna get from Chris Gray,” Breschi said. “But at the end of the day, it’s other guys that are gonna step up and make plays.”

@danielhwei

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com 

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Daniel Wei

Daniel Wei is a 2023-24 assistant sports editor at The Daily Tar Heel. He has previously served as a senior writer. Daniel is a junior pursuing a double major in business administration and economics.