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No. 15 UNC men's lacrosse falls to No. 9 Johns Hopkins in 13-9 home loss

UNC graduate defensive midfielder Danny Striano (31) carries the ball down the field during the UNC men's lacrosse game against Johns Hopkins on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, at Dorrance Field.

Late-game turnovers and inaccurate shooting led to No. 15 North Carolina’s (2-1) loss to No. 9 Johns Hopkins (4-1) 13-9 in the Tar Heels’ home opener Saturday afternoon at Dorrance Field. 

The Tar Heels and Blue Jays are familiar opponents, as they have played in every season but one since 1981. This includes several meetings in the NCAA Lacrosse Final Four, and victories against Johns Hopkins to win UNC’s first two national championships.

After 15 minutes of play, Johns Hopkins led North Carolina 2-1. Midway through the quarter, the Blue Jays broke the scoring deadlock before the Tar Heels answered soon after with a man-up goal by redshirt first-year Dominic Pietramala. A second Johns Hopkins goal gave the Blue Jays the advantage in the first quarter. 

A back-and-forth second period brought loads of scoring. The Tar Heels tallied four goals, each by a different player. Yet, Johns Hopkins preserved its lead by scoring early and often throughout the period.

At the half, the Blue Jays led 6-5. Both teams mirrored similar stats in shots, saves and turnovers. North Carolina won the faceoff battle 9-4. 

“I think we had a really good first half and just keep our foot on the pedal and hope for the best,” Pietramala said.

However, Johns Hopkins grew its lead to start the second half – scoring three goals over a seven-minute stretch that carried over from the first. Answers from UNC midfielders Ty English and Johnny Schwarz were not enough to cut into the Blue Jay lead when Johns Hopkins scored its fifth goal of the quarter with under a minute to play. 

Trailing by four to start the final period, a quick North Carolina goal spurred a potential comeback for the Tar Heels. But stifling defense down the stretch from Johns Hopkins – paired with poor finishing from North Carolina in front of the goal – allowed the Blue Jays to withstand an extended period of man-up play for UNC. 

“We had a lot of young guys on the field, and maybe they were gripping their stick a little tight instead of just letting it loose and going,” UNC head coach Joe Breschi said. “And [Johns Hopkins’] goalie had a lot to do with it. He’s excellent.” 

During 2 minutes of revolving penalties against Blue Jay defensemen, the Tar Heels attempted six shots, none of which found the back of the net. The sloppy play in front of goal wasted a perfect fourth-quarter opportunity for the Tar Heels. Moments later, Johns Hopkins put the nail in the coffin by scoring its final goal with under three minutes to play. 

North Carolina will continue its three-game home stretch by welcoming No. 11 Princeton for its next matchup on Friday night. 

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