After missing the NCAA Tournament last year and losing four of its last five games, the No. 17 North Carolina men’s lacrosse team will look to bounce back this year.
The Tar Heels will open the season at Dorrance Field on Feb. 10 with a matchup against Mercer. After that, they’ll go on a 12-day, three-game road trip that includes matchups against lacrosse bluebloods Johns Hopkins and Syracuse as well as No. 11 Ohio State.
Last year, then-No. 4 North Carolina suffered a 20-8 loss to the Buckeyes and was outscored 14-3 in the second half. After the team lost its top three point-getters from last season to either the transfer portal or graduation, this year's matchup will be an early test of whether the revamped Tar Heels offense will be able to compete with some of the nation's top teams.
After a five-day break, they’ll have a two-game home stretch against two ranked teams in No. 13 Denver and No. 12 Brown — two teams the Tar Heels were able to defeat last season. On March 17, the Tar Heels will seek revenge as they travel to Durham to face a very-talented No. 7 Duke team, who swept UNC in 2022.
Duke returns two attackmen who recorded over 50 points last season in Dyson Williams and Brennan O’Neill. The latter tallied 12 points in the two games against the Tar Heels, including seven goals in the first matchup between the Tobacco Road rivals.
UNC will need to step up its defensive performance from last year if the team hopes to find success in slowing down the Blue Devils' offensive attack. This will start in the crease with junior goalkeeper Collin Krieg, who let in a combined 34 goals in last season's two games against Duke.
Following the matchup against Duke, North Carolina will play four straight home games, including three in a seven-day span starting on March 19 against Dartmouth. The team will then play High Point and Providence on March 22 and March 25, respectively. The Tar Heels will then close out the home stand against preseason No. 1 Virginia nearly two weeks later.
After losing in the quarterfinals last year in the NCAA Tournament against eventual champion Maryland, the Cavaliers will look to have a repeat of their 2021 campaign in which they won the national championship. Attackman Connor Shellenberger will have a big part in this as he’s the conductor of the potent Virginia offense, having led the team in points for two straight seasons. And for the past two years, his No. 1 option has been Payton Cormier, who has had over 40 goals in back-to-back years.
On April 15, the Tar Heels will have their first neutral-site game since 2019 when they travel to Olney, Maryland, for their second game against Syracuse in the 2023 season. Finally, to close out the season, North Carolina will play two straight games against No. 6 Notre Dame – first on April 22 in South Bend and then on May 6 in Chapel Hill.
Before the final two games of the year in 2022, UNC still had a shot of making the tournament despite losing two of the previous three games. However, they continued their downturn and dropped both games, throwing away their shot at a second straight tournament appearance.
With a young but talented team this year, the Tar Heels could potentially be in the same position when they start their series against the Fighting Irish. Therefore, it is important for them to gain experience quickly so they can handle the talent-heavy schedule ahead of them.
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