CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - The sixth-ranked University of North Carolina men's lacrosse team rallied from a halftime deficit for only the second time this season as Billy Bitter's school record-tying eight goals propelled the Tar Heels to a 15-13 win over ninth-ranked UMBC in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Fetzer Field Saturday afternoon.
North Carolina (12-5) advances to the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Division I Men's Championship for the 21st time in school history and it will meet the winner of Saturday night's Duke versus Navy NCAA first-round game a week from Sunday in the quarterfinals at Annapolis, Md.'s Navy Marine-Corps Stadium. The America East Conference champion Retrievers saw their season end at 12-4 with Saturday's loss.
It was a wild afternoon at Fetzer Field with Bitter and senior Shane Walterhoefer coming up big for UNC against a UMBC team that had a balanced scoring attack with a trio of players recording hat tricks.
Bitter scored on his first eight shots on goal to tie the school record for goals in a game which he now shares with All-America attackman Mac Ford and All-America midfielder Jason Wade. Ford scored eight goals on April 21, 1984 against Adelphi and Wade scored eight goals against Maryland on March 23, 1996. Ironically, Bitter was denied on his ninth and final shot of the game as a UMBC double team left an empty net for the sophomore from Stowe, Vt. But the Retrievers' defense recovered and was able to block Bitter's final attempt with 1:57 left in the game.
Bitter also was tantalizingly close to matching the Tar Heel record for shooting percentage in a game. That belongs to Wade who scored on his first eight shots against Maryland in the aforementioned 1996 game. But Wade never took a ninth shot and he maintains that record in Tar Heel lore.
Bitter was just one goal short of tying the record for most goals scored in an NCAA Tournament game. Gary Gait of Syracuse scored nine goals against Navy on May 22, 1988 in an NCAA Tournament quarterfinal game at the Carrier Dome and Oliver Marti of Brown also scored nine goals in an NCAA first-round game against Loyola on May 9, 1992.
Shane Walterhoefer was another key to the Tar Heel victory as he won 22 of 31 face-offs on the game. He was just one face-off win short of tying his own school record of 23 face-off wins set on April 12, 2008 against Ohio State. It also marked the 20th time in 56 career games in which Walterhoefer has won at least 15 face-offs in a game meaning he has now won 15 or more in a game in 35.7 percent of his career games.
Besides Bitter's eight goals (he added an assist for good measure), the Tar Heels also got two goals from senior attackman Bart Wagner an single goals by freshman midfielder Jimmy Dunster, junior attackman Gavin Petracca, junior midfielder Cryder DiPietro, senior midfielder Shane Walterhoefer and senior defenseman Jack Ryan. Ryan's goal came on the first shot that Ryan has taken in his career. Wagner added three assists for a five-point game while senior midfielder Bobby McAuley had two assists and single assists came from Bitter, junior midfielder Sean Burke, junior midfielder Sean Delaney, Dunster, sophomore defenseman Milton Lyles and Petracca.
UMBC had a very balanced and dangerous scoring slate as Alex Hopman, Kyle Wimer and Chris Jones each had hat tricks for the Retrievers. Matt Latham had two goals while Peet Poilon and Ryan Smith each had single tallies. Poilon and Smith each had two assists while Hopmann and Grimm added single assists.
UNC outshot the Retrievers 46-35 and for the 17th time in 17 games this year, UNC won the ground ball battle by a 56-37 margin. Eleven different UNC players had at least three ground balls in the game, led by Walterhoefer with eight, Bitter with six, Wagner with five and sophomore defenseman Ryan Flanagan with six.
UNC ended with a 23-9 edge at the face-off X. Both teams finished with 17 turnovers and both squads cleared successfully with UMBC going 20 of 24 and Carolina 19 of 22. UMBC had the only two extra-man goals of the game.
With both teams playing high-powered, explosive offensive lacrosse, both goalkeepers were tested. Senior Jeremy Blevins, a four-year starter, had 12 saves for UMBC while freshman James Petracca had eight for UNC. Petracca made only eight saves but they came at the most crucial parts of the game. With UMBC trying to extend an 8-6 lead right before halftime, he stopped three shots in the final 1:04 of the first half. With Carolina nursing a 15-13, Petracca made stops on point-blank shots by Matt Latham with 3:37 left in the game and again with 2:40 left in the game to help the Tar Heels maintain their edge.
Bitter's eight goals gives him 46 this season. He is only one goal short of the school record of Dennis Goldstein who tallied 47 in the Tar Heels' 1991 NCAA championship and undefeated 16-game season. Bitter now has 69 points this year, the third most in a season in UNC history behind Bruce Ledwith's 81 points in 1973 and Goldstein's 75 points in 1991.
Walterhoefer extended his own school record for face-offs won in a season as he now has 254 this season. He has 708 in his career, the fourth highest total in NCAA history and now 14 behind the No. 3 spot on the list.
Photos: Mark Abbott
North Carolina vs. Umbc
|Billy Bitter||(8, 1)|
|Bart Wagner||(2, 3)|
|Gavin Petracca||(1, 1)|
|Jimmy Dunster||(1, 1)|
|Bobby Mcauley||(0, 2)|
|Cryder Dipietro||(1, 0)|
|Jack Ryan||(1, 0)|
|Shane Walterhoefer||(1, 0)|
|Sean Burke||(0, 1)|
|Sean Delaney||(0, 1)|
|Milton Lyles||(0, 1)|