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No. 7 UNC men’s lacrosse drops ACC opener to No. 2 Virginia, 15-11

Senior midfielder Zac Tucci (7) protects the ball during the Tar Heels' 15-11 loss against UVA on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2022 on Dorrance Field in Chapel Hill, N.C. Tucci finished the night with 7 ground balls and two shots, one on goal.

The No. 7 North Carolina men’s lacrosse team lost its ACC opener against No. 2 Virginia on Thursday night, 15-11.

What happened?

The Cavaliers scored first as first-year Griffin Schutz sunk a shot into the bottom corner of the net just over a minute into the game. Senior midfielder Jeff Conner promptly doubled up Virginia’s lead with an unassisted goal just 36 seconds later.

UNC stopped the bleeding moments later after senior attackman Chris Gray found Cole Herbert, who slung a shot into the top of the net. Soon afterwards, Gray evened the score with an unassisted goal of his own, dodging his defender to the right and rocketing a shot past the goalkeeper. Herbert continued the run with a bounce shot that was good, giving the Tar Heels a 3-2 lead. Seniors Henry Schertzinger and Nicky Solomon continued to pile on with two more goals, and suddenly UNC was solidly in control of the game.

Virginia goalkeeper Matthew Nunes put an end to UNC’s 5-0 run after saving a shot from senior midfielder Zac Tucci, and the Cavaliers were able to generate some pressure on the other end of the field. After five unfruitful shots from the Cavaliers, Connor Shellenberger got one past UNC goalkeeper Collin Krieg to cut the deficit to two goals before the end of the first period.

Shellenberger scored again to open the second quarter, and after winning the next faceoff, the Cavaliers tied the game back up with a goal from Payton Cormier. Two more unassisted goals from Virginia’s Matt Moore put his team back in the driver’s seat with a 7-5 lead. Another goal from Solomon broke Virginia’s scoring run with nine minutes left in the half, but the Cavaliers were quick to respond. The two teams traded goals in the following minutes, but a score from Kelly with 32 seconds remaining in the period gave UNC a 10-9 halftime lead.

Virginia dominated the third quarter. Moore and Shellenberger scored early in the period to take an 11-10 lead, then two goals from Cormier and one from Jack Simmons put the Cavaliers up four. UNC turned the ball over six times and only had five shots in those 15 minutes.

Who stood out? 

Shellenberger was electric with a four goal, three assist performance. Moore and Cormier also recorded hat tricks with three goals apiece.

Krieg’s performance in goal was what kept UNC in the game for so long. His 18 saves were a season high, and the most since he had 20 against Virginia last season. 

When was it decided?

The Tar Heels ramped up the pressure in the final quarter, firing off six shots before an attempt from P.J. Zwinsner found the back of the net with 9 minutes remaining. Shellenberger responded with his fourth goal of the night though, and UNC found itself in a tough spot, down four with time slipping away. After a desperate shot by Kelly with 90 seconds left was saved by Nunes, the game was all but over.

Why does it matter?

UNC has played plenty of quality opponents so far this season, but none have been quite at the level of Virginia. The ACC is one of the best conferences for lacrosse in the NCAA, and this game was quite the introduction to conference play.

UNC has played its best this season when they outshoot their opponent, but the Tar Heels were outshot by the Cavaliers 53 to 38 tonight. Turnovers hampered the team’s ability to get off shots all night.

This was the final matchup of a seven-game homestretch to open the season. UNC’s schedule is back loaded with three of its last four games being on the road against highly-ranked opponents.

When do they play next?

UNC will take a ten-day pause for spring break, then return to action with a game at High Point on Sunday, March 20.

@dthsports |

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Lucas Thomae

Lucas Thomae is the 2023-24 sports managing editor at The Daily Tar Heel. He has previously served as an assistant sports editor and summer editor. Lucas is a senior pursuing a major in journalism and media with a minor in data science.