North Carolina Men’s Lacrosse started their 2023 season off in spectacular fashion, winning 25-3 against the Mercer Bears in the friendly confines of Dorrance Field.
The Tar Heels started off slowly, scoring their first goal five minutes into the game courtesy of senior Lance Tillman. They would add two more to end the first period up 3-0 over the Bears. From there,it was an offensive explosion for the home team, as they racked up 13 goals in the second quarter to take a 16-1 lead into the intermission break.
From there, UNC continued to dominate, adding four more goals in the third period and another five in the fourth to come away with a 25-3 victory to start the year. The 25 goals wre more than they scored in any game last year. Their 22 point margin of victory was the largest in Division One Men’s Lacrosse through the first week of the season.
Who stood out?
Bryant graduate transfer Logan McGovern led the way for a balanced offensive attack for the Tar Heels, as he put up seven points in the first half. Six other UNC players added multiple goals, including Tillman and sophomore Antonio DeMarco. McGovern was a prized offseason acquisition coming from Bryant, where he set their school record for assists in a season. Tillman is looking to build off a season where he scored 21 goals.
Preseason All-American Connor Maher had a solid game as well to help the effort for North Carolina. The graduate defensive midfielder had a goal, an assist, and was highly effective in face-ups throughout the game. He helped anchor a Tar Heel defensive effort that did not allow a single goal in the first or lasts 15 minutes of the game.
Parker Junod, Connor Panebianco, and Ashton Wood added the only goals for the Bears, who lost their opener to Bucknell prior to this game.
When was it decided?
Head Coach Joe Breschi was able to utilize a wide variety of reserves over the course of the game thanks to the large early lead, which allowed first-year attackman James Matan to score his first career goals. Sophomore Ryan Levy was also key for the Tar Heels’ attack in theh second half, as he chipped in with two goals and an assist, all of which came in the final twelve minutes of action. First-year defensive midfielder Leif Hagerup also got on the board only 40 seconds into the final period.
Why does it matter?
The win sets up the Tar Heels nicely for a difficult opening stretch of the season. Three consecutive road match-ups with Johns Hopkins, Ohio State, and Syracuse are all on the docket for UNC in the next two weeks, who will look to improve on their 19th ranking in Inside Lacrosse’s initial 2023 poll. Johns Hopkins is a team that finished directly behind the Tar Heels in last year’s RPI rankings, so having to play them on Tuesday night in Maryland will be a much-needed challenge. Still, starting the season off with a dominant win over Mercer and providing playing opportunities for a large number of the Tar Heels’ reserves is not an issue at all.
When do they play next?
Up next, the Tar Heels will play in the aforementioned game at Johns Hopkins on Tuesday at 5:00. The game will be televised on ESPNU and available to watch on the ESPN app.
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