The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Despite 20-8 loss, UNC men's lacrosse team share special moment with Ohio State

UNC graduate attacker Chris Gray (4) maintains possession during a home men's lacrosse game against Ohio State on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022. UNC lost 20-8.

Beams of sunlight sparkled off the shiny argyle stripe on UNC men's lacrosse's brand new navy blue helmets, as the players prepared for the opening face-off on Dorrance Field. Senior face-off midfielder Zac Tucci approached Buckeye Justin Inacio at the midfield line and lined up his stick parallel to Inacio’s.

The No. 4 Tar Heels hadn’t seen those bright red Buckeye jerseys on the other side of the field at a regular-season game in 11 years, but were all too familiar with the program’s play.

UNC travels every year to Columbus, Ohio to play fall ball with OSU, in tribute to UNC head coach Joe Breschi’s son, Michael, who was killed in a car accident in 2003. At the time, Breschi was at the helm of OSU’s program from 1998 to 2008. At the end of the game, the Michael R. Breschi Scholarship is awarded to a senior Ohio State player.

During Breschi’s tenure as Ohio State’s skipper, now-OSU head coach Nick Myers was his assistant and saw Breschi as his mentor. This game was the fourth time the two have been on opposite sidelines, one time when Breschi held the first two wins and another when Myers sealed the 2011 victory.  

Breschi knew this game was going to be a slugfest.

“We really don't love playing against each other,” Breschi said.

The first half was a seesaw battle, opened up by a goal made by none other than grad student attackman Chris Gray. He was named USA Lacrosse Magazine Preseason Player of the Year and currently holds the ACC Offensive Player of the Week honors.

Ohio State’s Jackson Reid, who won the Michael R. Breschi scholarship award in the fall, tied the score. Next, senior attackman Nicky Solomon shot a low goal off a broken OSU clear, which was followed by another Buckeye goal.

By the end of the first quarter, the face-off tally was about even, 3-2 Ohio State, which reflected the tied score, but the seesaw soon tipped in the Buckeyes’ favor.

A combined Tucci and junior Andrew Tyeryar won only one of the seven face-offs in the second quarter, which greatly impacted North Carolina’s possession time. Although Solomon, Gray and senior attackman Jacob Kelly buried balls in the Buckeye cage, the Buckeyes’ advantage on the clock gave them more scoring opportunities and helped them notch the lead at the half, 6-5.

Ohio State controlled the pace of the third quarter as Inacio won the majority of the face-offs against all three midfielders UNC threw at him. North Carolina’s defensive third was constantly pressed the entire period; even during 50-50 ground ball opportunities, UNC failed to put up a fight to scoop the ball for a possession.

“When you're not winning a lot of draws, you have to come up with those one-and-done opportunities defensively,” Breschi said. “And they out-scrapped us in those 50-50 GBs.”

These factors led to Ohio State averaging about one goal per minute during the last nine of the quarter, which raised the score to a lopsided 16-7.

Even though sophomore goalkeeper Collin Krieg recorded a season-high 15 saves that afternoon, Ohio State posted 15 more shots on goal than the Tar Heels, leaving him and the rest of his defensemen overwhelmed.

“They just took it to us,” Krieg said. “On defense, we just tried to make stops and didn't get it done on our end today.”

In the trenches during the fourth quarter, UNC gave up another six goals. The only shot that interrupted OSU’s offensive onslaught was Kelly’s over-the-shoulder hurl into the back of the cage, which was North Carolina’s first made goal in almost 13 minutes of regulation.

In the end, Ohio State beat UNC 20-8. This loss marked the first time that UNC has given up 20 goals since it’s 21-13 loss to UVA in 2008. The 12-point margin of defeat is North Carolina’s largest since it’s 20-5 loss to Virginia in 1997. 

Though the Tar Heels have played Ohio State fall after fall and are familiar with Inacio and the Buckeyes’ style of play, they still could not make a break in their offensive domination to garner a comeback.

“The good thing about playing team ball is you have film on them and you get to prepare. Our coaches did a great job preparing but the execution wasn't there,” Gray said. “It just shows we have a lot of work to do.”

Falling this hard to an unranked team is an extreme early-season wake-up call for Inside Lacrosse’s No. 4 team in the nation. But perhaps it has a different meaning for Breschi, in a mentee-beats-mentor fashion.

“I have a ton of respect for him (Myers) and the way his team played,” Breschi said. “They beat us and just about every facet of the game, so that hats off to him, his staff and his team.”

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.

@KaitlynSchmid1 | @dthsports