CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Marcus Holman and Jimmy Bitter both tallied career highs for goals and points as they led eighth-ranked North Carolina to a 12-9 come-from-behind victory over Hofstra Saturday afternoon in the ESPNU Warrior Classic at American Legion Memorial Stadium. A crowd of 6,230 fans was on hand as the Tar Heels improved to 9-4 on the season while Hofstra fell to 6-6.
The Tar Heel-Pride matchup was the second game of the doubleheader after Syracuse routed Rutgers 19-6 in the opening game.
Holman had career highs for both points and goals and Bitter recorded career highs for points, goals and assists in a game. Between the two of them, they accounted for nine of UNC's 12 goals and five of the Tar Heels' seven assists.
It was a needed comeback win for the Tar Heels who for the second time this season rallied from a halftime deficit to gut out a win. When the Tar Heels did that on February 25 against Navy, it was the first time they had rallied from a halftime deficit to win since the next-to-last game of the 2009 season. They've now down it twice in 2011.
Holman finished with five goals and two assists for seven points for UNC while Bitter had four goals and three assists for seven points. Davey Emala had a goal and an assist for the Tar Heels while Chad Tutton and Jimmy Dunster also scored for the Heels.
It was a three-man offensive show in the goals column for the Pride of the Colonial Athletic Association as Lance Yapor had four goals, Mike Malave had three goals and Adrian Sorichetti had two goals and two assists. Mike DeNapoli had two assists and Steve Sterling two assists for Coach Seth Tierney's team.
Joe Breschi's Tar Heels outshot the Pride 41-28 and dominated the ground balls 37-22. Kieran McDonald led the Tar Heels with five ground balls while Marcus Holman, Jimmy Bitter and Mark Staines each had three for UNC. Carolina won 14 of 24 face-offs with R.G. Keenan going 12 for 22 and Frankie Kelly winning both of his draws.
Andrew Gvozden of Hofstra made 14 saves and allowed 12 goals in 58:24 while Steven Rastivo of Carolina finished with six saves while allowing nine goals. UNC committed only 11 turnovers, four below its season average, while Hofstra committed 17 errors.
Holman's five goals exceeded the four he had against Navy and Maryland in his freshman year in 2010 and the four he had against UMBC in 2011. His seven points exceeded the previous career high of six he had against Navy, Dartmouth and Johns Hopkins earlier this season. Bitter's four goals were one more than he had earlier this season against both Mercer and Johns Hopkins. The three assists were also a career best, exceeding the two he had against Mercer, Dartmouth and Maryland and the seven points were three above his previous career high of four against Mercer on February 20.
The Tar Heels jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead on tallies by Bitter and Holman but Hofstra outscored Carolina 5-2 over the last 16 minutes of the first half to take a 5-4 halftime lead. An unassisted goal by Mike Malave with four seconds left in the half gave the Pride their first lead at 5-4.
Three different times in the second half the Pride would extend the lead to a pair of goals, but the Tar Heels always hung around and were poised for a big fourth quarter rally. The Tar Heels outshot the Pride 13-5 in the fourth quarter and won the ground ball battle 12-4 in the final period.
A man up goal by Lance Yapor put Hofstra up 6-4 three minutes into the second half. The Pride had several possessions to extend the lead, but Carolina held strong and a pair of goals by Marcus Holman just 12 seconds apart tied the game up with 6:25 to play in the third quarter. Hofstra came right back with two goals by Yapor, the second a man-up goal, and with 2:16 left in the third quarter Hofstra led 8-6.
The Tar Heels cut into the margin with a Davey Emala goal with 1:26 left in the third quarter. The Tar Heels had a chance to tie to open the fourth quarter but Holman's shot on an extra-man opportunity with 14:42 left was saved by Gvozden. On the other end, Malave answered with an alley-dodge unassisted goal less than a minute later.
That goal, with 13:55 to play, would be Hofstra's last of the game as the Tar Heels began their furious rally with a goal by Holman, assisted by Bitter with 12:48 to play. Just 44 seconds later, Jimmy Dunster scored past Gvozden on outside heat, assisted by Emala, to tie the game at 9-9 with 12:04 to play.
Over the next four minutes, both teams had excellent opportunities to break the tie. The Tar Heels forced a couple of turnovers and then a long possession by the Heels resulted in the eventual game-winning goal. After Thomas Wood's shot was stopped by Gvozden, Holman pounced on the rebound and scored for a 10-9 lead with 7:35 to play.
Rastivo made two saves on the next Hofstra possession, stopping shots by Yapor at 6:22 and Serling at 5:50. With 5:04 to play Sorichetti's outside blast was blocked by UNC midfielder Greg McBride. The Tar Heels cleared the ball and freshman Chad Tutton got loose to score with 3:26 to play. After the next face-off, Steve Serling's shot hit the post, the Tar Heels got possession and then clinched it on an empty-net goal by Bitter with 1:36 to play.
The Tar Heels improved to 39-5 against non-conference teams in Coach Joe Breschi's four-year tenure with the win. Holman's seven points give him 108 for his career as he moves into a tie with David Wingate for 30th place on UNC's all-time scoring chart. He now had 49 points this season on 23 goals and 26 assists.
UNC returns to action next Friday when it plays #1-ranked Virginia in the ACC Tournament semifinals at Klockner Stadium in Charlottesville, Va. The match starts at 7:30 p.m. Virginia is the #2 seed in the tournament and Carolina the #3 seed.
North Carolina vs. Hofstra