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Strong goalkeeping play from Duke leads to UNC men's lacrosse loss on Saturday

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UNC fifth-year defender Sean Morris (16) attempts to block a Duke player during a home game at Dorrance Field on Saturday Apr. 2, 2022.

The No. 9 North Carolina men’s lacrosse team faced a No. 15 Duke squad with a white-hot goalie in front of a capacity crowd at Dorrance Field on Saturday. 

There, the Blue Devils throttled the Tar Heels 15-6 — behind 19 saves from graduate Mike Adler and seven goals from sophomore Brennan O’Neill. 

UNC only scored one goal in the first half — by far its lowest total of the season, and Adler’s .933 save percentage through 30 minutes rivaled some of the best goalies in the National Hockey League. Considering lacrosse net-minders aim to make stops at around a 55 percent clip, Adler’s rate was simply unfathomable. 

“We pressed a bit offensively when he made nine saves in the first quarter and took the wind out of our sails,” UNC head coach Joe Breschi said. “Sometimes you hit a hot goalie at the wrong time, and that’s what today was.” 

The Blue Devils throttled the scored the Tar Heels’ lone goal of the first half, catching a feed from Gray and picking the top left corner on the extra man. 

He also sang Adler’s praises. Schertzinger knows his team needs to execute at a much higher level offensively as it moves through the rest of its ACC schedule. 

“It’s easier said than done to have the next shot mentality,” Schertzinger said. “When you have a goalie that hot, you know he’s seeing the ball. Every save he makes continues to pile up in the back of your mind, so as a shooter, you start to think and overthink.” 

Duke dominated North Carolina in what many consider the sport’s most important stat — ground balls, where the team picked up 35 to UNC’s 21 that ultimately gave the Blue Devils more possessions. Even though UNC sophomore goalie Collin Krieg stood on his head to make 19 saves at a 55.9 percent rate, the sheer number of shots he faced was too many for any goalie to be successful. 

“They didn’t give us second chance opportunities by scooping up loose balls, specifically at the offensive end,” Breschi said. “They caused a lot of turnovers and came away with some loose balls.” 

North Carolina’s Tewaaraton-favorite attackman, graduate Chris Gray, finally came back down to earth, recording just one goal and three assists on nine shots. Duke’s defense slid to him early and often with physicality, the 5-foot-7 Gray’s kryptonite. 

O’Neill’s seven goals marked a new career-high for the sophomore from Bay Shore, NY, and made it look seamless. UNC’s midseason first-team all-American defensive midfielder Connor Maher knows the Tar Heels are going to have to be better against him in Durham next month. 

“He’s an incredible player,” Maher said. “Not only is he extremely quick and a large kid, but he’s clearly worked on his game a lot. He got us into some bad spots defensively, and I look forward to getting back out there when we get to play them again.” 

One bright spot for the program, though, came from the people in the stands. Every national championship team in program history was on hand to watch, something Breschi and his players love to see anytime they take the field. 

“It’s awesome,” Breschi said. “It’s fun to see everybody embrace the program. We had over 250 alums back to enjoy this beautiful day and it’s unfortunate that we couldn’t come up with the win, but I know those guys were having a great time.” 

The loss drops North Carolina to the bubble picture of the NCAA tournament, but the Tar Heels certainly have chances ahead to right the ship. 

“It’s one game,” Breschi said. "We have an opportunity to prepare and get ourselves better for Virginia next week."

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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