Heels Stay Undefeated, Top Irish 8-6

Heels Stay Undefeated, Top Irish 8-6

Heels Stay Undefeated, Top Irish 8-6

Heels Stay Undefeated, Top Irish 8-6

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Junior goalkeeper Grant Zimmerman had career highs in saves and ground balls and junior midfielder Ben Hunt scored a career-high five goals as North Carolina defeated Notre Dame 8-6 Saturday afternoon in men's lacrosse action before 1,312 fans at chilly Fetzer Field. The win boosts the Tar Heels to 4-0, while Notre Dame falls for the first time this season and is now 4-1.

This marks Carolina's first 4-0 start since the Tar Heels opened the 2002 season with a 6-0 mark. In the last six days, the Heels have beaten a pair of teams ranked No. 5 in the USILA coaches poll as the Tar Heels dispatched Cornell 13-8 last Sunday at Fetzer Field prior to their Saturday decision versus the Irish.

UNC jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the game before holding off a furious second half rally by the Fighting Irish. Zimmerman's goalkeeping was superb and his play helped the Tar Heels overcome some statistical disadvantages in other aspects of the game. But the Heels played relentless defense and benefitted from good shot selection on the offensive end.

Zimmerman finished with 18 saves while allowing only six goals. His previous career high save total was 15 in 2007 against both Johns Hopkins and Virginia. His eight ground balls equaled the eight he had against the Blue Jays last year. Hunt's five goals exceeded his previous personal best totals of three set last year against Dartmouth, Navy and Fairfield. Hunt also had an assist for a six-point day while junior midfielder Sean Delaney had a pair of third-quarter unassisted goals that were key in stemming the tide of Notre Dame's second-half rally.

Hunt opened the scoring with 5:45 left in the opening quarter on a man-up goal assisted by junior attackman Bart Wagner. Hunt caught the ball on the left side of the box, took a couple of steps and was able to measure his well-placed shot which escaped Joey Kemp, who also played very well, making 11 saves and allowing only eight goals. Just 58 seconds after the first goal, Nick Tintle fed a nifty pass to Hunt who finished his scoring opportunity again to make the score 2-0.

Meanwhile, Zimmerman and the Tar Heel defense was keeping Notre Dame off the scoreboard in the first half as the Irish had 15 shots, but Zimmerman's seven saves helped the Tar Heels build a 4-0 edge at the half. UNC added two goals in the second quarter. Hunt scored his third straight goal in the game, with another assist by Tintle, to increase the lead to 3-0 with 8:06 left in the period. Carolina added another goal in the final minute of the first half as Hunt found a streaking Rob Driscoll, who split the Notre Dame defense, and rocketed a shot past Kemp from 15 yards out. Driscoll's goal made the score 4-0 just 41 seconds before the end of the half.

In the second half, the Fighting Irish scrapped their way back into the game, outshooting Carolina 26-12 after halftime and winning nine of the 11 face-offs in the second half. Carolina did not help itself, turning the ball over eight times in the second half and failing on four clears but Zimmerman and the Heels' defense prevailed in the end.

The Tar Heels gained their biggest edge of the day at 5-0 on Hunt's fourth goal, an unassisted tally just 46 seconds into the half. Shortly after that, the Heels faced a two-man down situation with Ryan Flanagan having been called for two slashing penalties and Fletcher Gregory for a pushing foul. Notre Dame capitalized on an extra-man goal by Michael Podgajny assisted by Grant Krebs with 12:51 left in the quarter. Just 1:07 later, Podgajny scored his second straight goal, assisted by Peter Christman, to make the score 5-2.

Delaney's first goal of the third quarter gave the Tar Heels a 6-2 lead with 9:45 left in the frame as he claimed a ground ball off an unsettled situation and sped toward the goal unmarked by the defense to score past Kemp. The next two goals were Notre Dame's as the Fighting Irish pulled within two goals with 4:24 left in the quarter. Again, the Tar Heels were hurt by fouling as both Notre Dame goals were scored on extra-man chances. Ryan Hoff scored off an assist by Christman with 7:23 left in the third quarter and then Alex Wharton lit up the scoreboard off an assist by Podgajny at 4:24.

UNC responded with two goals of their own to restore its four-goal lead from halftime going into the fourth quarter. Delaney went one-on-one with a defender and sent a well-timed shot past Kemp at 2:25 of the period to make it 7-4. Later in the period, after a slashing penalty on Sam Barnes, Hunt scored his fifth goal of the game on the EMO, assisted by freshman attackman Billy Bitter. Hunt took a pass at the top of the box sent from behind the goal by Bitter and sent a hard shot that found the twine with 34 seconds left in the period. It would be UNC's last goal of the game.

Zimmerman was particularly effective in the third quarter despite giving up the four goals. He made eight saves in the period as Notre Dame outshot the Heels 14-8 in the 15-minute fram.

At the start of the fourth quarter, UNC freshman midfielder Michael J. Burns was assessed an unreleasable three-minute penalty for illegal equipment (stick penalty). Notre Dame got off four shots during the three-minute EMO but was unable to score. Carolina was killing off the final seconds of the foul when a turnover gave the ball back to the Irish and defenseman Mike Creighton scored a fast break goal off an assist by Davey Malera with 11:49 to play.

Over the next nine plus minutes of the game, the Fighting Irish and Heels exchanged eight shots but neither team was able to score. Sean Dougherty of Notre Dame was sent off for slashing with 3:18 to play, but a turnover by Bitter gave the ball back to the Irish. On a fast break, Duncan Swezey scored an unassisted goal for Notre Dame with 2:08 to play, cutting Carolina's lead to 8-6.

Notre Dame's Taylor Clagett won the ensuing faceoff but Zimmerman saved a shot by Podgajny with 1:38 left. Carolina failed to clear the ball, however, and the Irish got the ball back, calling a timeout with exactly one minute to play. Eleven seconds later, Zimmerman made his 18th save on a shot by Christman. The Fighting Irish's last offensive chance was foiled when UNC senior defensive midfielder Mike Munnelly successfully stick checked Grant Krebs with 11 seconds to play, seized the ground ball and ran out the remaining seconds.

Carolina played without starting faceoff specialist Shane Walterhoefer and starting close defenseman Brian Burke, both nursing injuries. Freshman Ryan Flanagan earned his first career start on defense and combined with senior Tim Kaiser and junior Jack Ryan to allow only one Notre Dame goal that was not scored off an EMO or a fast break. Senior defensive middies Fletcher Gregory and Mike Munnelly also had big games for the Heels. Delaney had a career-high four ground balls to go along with his two goals.

Notre Dame ended with an edge in shots 41-29, ground balls 41-36, face-offs 13-3 and extra-man goals 3-2, but Zimmerman's 18 saves jump out as the biggest indicator of the game's score on the final stat sheet.

Carolina will now travel to Providence on Tuesday to play the Friars in a 1 p.m. game. The Tar Heels will be in action next Saturday at soon-to-be No. 1 Duke for a 3 p.m. game. The Fighting Irish continue their season by playing Dartmouth in Atlanta, Ga., next Saturday.

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Good Win For The Heels!
    by (#136419) on 3/09/08 @11:42PM
They beat a solid and very well-coached Notre Dame team. Congrats to Coach John Haus and the Heels!
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