A monstrous scoring run in the third quarter propelled the No. 9 Duke men’s lacrosse team (11-5, 3-2 ACC) to a 19-11 victory over No. 18 North Carolina (8-6, 1-5 ACC) at Koskinen Stadium on Sunday evening.
Both teams came out firing on all cylinders in the first period, with UNC senior attackman Nicky Solomon scoring his 20th goal of the season off an assist from graduate attacker Chris Gray.
After Duke responded with a goal, Solomon assisted junior attacker Lance Tillman for his 20th goal of the season. The Blue Devils then scored back-to-back goals on a man-down opportunity, including midfielder Jake Naso winning a face-off and taking it all the way for a solo goal to put the Blue Devils up 3-2.
UNC senior attacker Jacob Kelly scored his 20th goal of the season off an assist from sophomore midfielder Cole Herbert. After the teams traded goals, the Tar Heels led 5-4 at the end of the first period.
The Blue Devils equalized the score early in the second period when attacker Brennan O'Neill spun past his defender and dished it to attacker Sean Lulley, who slung it into the back of the cage. However, both teams cooled down after this, only scoring two goals apiece by halftime. The rivals headed into the locker room with the Tar Heels leading, 7-6.
UNC crumbled on both ends in the third quarter, only managing to attempt eight shots to Duke’s 14, while allowing eight goals on the defensive end.
With the Blue Devils holding a commanding seven-goal lead heading into the final period, both teams began to score seemingly at will. Gray scored two unassisted goals to break the all-time NCAA Division I career points record. Also, UNC senior defensive midfielder Connor Maher scored his first goal of the season.
Who stood out?
Gray led the Tar Heels in scoring once again, notching three goals and three assists on 12 shots. Aside from Solomon and Tillman, no other Tar Heel registered multiple points.
Duke’s firepower was on full display, with midfielders Nakeie Montgomery and Andrew McAdorey, along with attacker Dyson Williams each earning a hat trick on a combined 13 shots. Additionally, O'Neill had a game-high four assists.
Attackers Joe Robertson and Sean Lulley each had two goals. Also, Naso dominated in his role in the midfield, winning 20 out of 33 face-offs.
When was it decided?
The contest was evenly matched at first, and the Tar Heels led by one goal at halftime. However, the Blue Devils’ eight unanswered goals in the third quarter built an insurmountable lead for North Carolina.
Why does it matter?
Even though it was the second time this season that the Blue Devils routed the Tar Heels, Gray cemented his legendary status in college lacrosse by becoming the NCAA Division I career points leader with 401.
This game also solidified the importance of winning the ground ball battle for UNC. Heading into Sunday's matchup, the Tar Heels were 1-5 when they either tied or lost the ground ball matchup, but 7-0 when winning it. Duke collected seven more ground balls than North Carolina on Sunday, and consequently had eight more shots on goal.
When do they play next?
The loss concludes the end of the Tar Heels’ regular season. UNC will now await the reveal of the NCAA Tournament bracket, hoping to receive an at-large bid.