DURHAM, N.C. — Music blared from the Duke men’s lacrosse locker room after the Blue Devils’ victory over North Carolina on Friday night.
On their way back to the bus, UNC players walked through the pouring rain, past the Duke locker room and heard the celebration.
While the Tar Heels never led in the game, after scoring four goals in four minutes to start the third quarter, it seemed as if, even for just a moment, they might have had a chance to be the ones celebrating at the end of the night. Instead, No. 14 UNC fell to No. 4 Duke, 15-8, on the road at Koskinen Stadium.
North Carolina went down at the half, 9-4, due to the compact Blue Devils defense. Duke goalkeeper William Helm made it so that even if the Tar Heels did get a shot on goal, it would more likely end up in the goalie’s stick rather than in the back of the net.
For the first four minutes of the second half, the Tar Heels grabbed hold of the game. UNC scored four times and got within a goal of Duke.
But, in the end, it was just a quick string of goals and nothing more.
As fast as North Carolina was able to get those four goals, the Duke defense was quick to adjust. For the rest of the game, Helm held it down in the crease. By the end of the night, the graduate goalkeeper had 14 saves.
“He made some good plays and good saves,” UNC head coach Joe Breschi said. “He changed the complexion of the game. I think we got a little anxious too because we had the momentum on our side. We took some bad shots that we weren’t taking earlier so that was unfortunate.”
While Helm shut down the North Carolina offensive attack, the Blue Devils‘ offense started to grow their lead once again.
Going into Friday, the North Carolina defense allowed an NCAA-low 7.67 goals per game. But going up against a Duke offense that averaged the fourth-most goals per game in the nation, it was going to be hard to stay within striking distance.
“The offense they have is very talented and I think we did some things that we hadn’t been doing all season,” Breschi said. “We can’t have simple mistakes, especially with them having great finishers inside.”
With 11 minutes left in the game, the Tar Heels were again staring at a five-goal deficit with Duke possessing a 13-8 lead. Unlike its run to start the third quarter, UNC had no answer for how to get back into the game.
While North Carolina possesses an array of offensive weapons, it has been unable to showcase such players in games it has lost. The Tar Heels score an average of 18.5 goals per game in wins, but have been able to muster an average of just seven goals per game in their three losses.
The offensive roller coaster the Tar Heels find themselves on will need to reach a stationary end as they enter conference play and face an assortment of ranked teams to round out their schedule.
“We just have to continue to work on our shooting and the placement of our shots and so forth,” Breschi said. “At the end of the day, we need to keep pounding away at these defenses.”
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