CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Fifth-ranked Princeton overcame a five-goal second-half deficit against third-ranked North Carolina but Billy Bitter scored the go-ahead goal with exactly three minutes to play and the Tar Heels prevailed 12-11 in men's lacrosse action before a crowd of 2,812 at Fetzer Field Tuesday night. The win improves North Carolina to 7-0 overall as the Tar Heels are off to their best start since the 1993 campaign when they won nine in a row to start the season.
Bitter rolled the crease on the left side and dunked the ball past Princeton goalkeeper Tyler Fiorito with exactly three minutes to play to put the Tar Heels up 11-10 after Princeton (4-1) had gone on a five-goal run in the third and fourth quarters to erase a 10-5 UNC lead. Bitter's goal, his only of the night, came after the Princeton defense had held the Tar Heels scoreless for a period of 15 minutes and 58 seconds. On the ensuing face-off Bitter caused a turnover after the Tigers had initially won the draw, giving the Heels possession again. UNC padded the lead to 12-10 on a goal by Cryder DiPietro, assisted by Jimmy Dunster with 2:10 to play. Princeton's Rob Engelke scored with two seconds to play to cut the Tar Heel lead to one and Princeton won the ensuing face-off but there was not enough time for the Tigers to get off a shot.
Carolina was led in scoring by senior attackman Gavin Petracca, who had four goals, while sophomore midfielder Jimmy Dunster had career highs in both assists with three and points with five to go with his two-goal performance. Cryder DiPietro had two goals for UNC and the senior midfielder also added an assist for a career high of three points in the game. Bitter finished with a goal and two assists while senior midfielder Sean DeLaney had a goal and an assist as both players kept alive their long scoring streaks. UNC's other goals came from redshirt junior midfielder Michael Burns and junior midfielder Ed Prevost, a junior college transfer, who scored the first goal of his Tar Heel career.
Princeton had a balanced scoring attack with Mike Chanenchuk and Rob Engelke leading the way with three goals each while cousins Chris McBride and Jack McBride each scored twice for the Tigers. Each McBride also had an assist in the game but the Tigers made their comeback mostly on the strength of unassisted goals.
Carolina, which has yet to trail in a game this year, will meet another Ivy League foe when they play host to Dartmouth Friday at 7 p.m. at Fetzer Field. The final stats were an indication of how close the game really was as Princeton outshot the Tar Heels 33-32 and won the ground ball battle 33-31. The Tigers won 15 face-offs to 12 for UNC. Both teams cleared the ball well with Princeton converting 12 of 13 and UNC 12 of 14. The Tigers converted one of three extra-man opportunities while UNC was 0-for-2 on the EMO. Princeton had 11 turnovers, including five in the fourth quarter when it was mounting its furious comeback, while UNC committed nine turnovers. It was a difficult night for both goalkeepers under the lights on a chilly night at Fetzer Field. Tyler Fiorito made four saves while allowing 12 goals for Princeton while Chris Madalon had seven saves while allowing 11 goals for UNC.
The teams traded the first four goals of the match. Gavin Petracca, whose four goals were just one short of his career high in a game, was left unattended on the left side of the crease and scored just 56 seconds into the game off a feed by Bitter. Princeton answered a little over a minute later as two long sticks hooked up on the tying goal. After a turnover by Bitter, Jeremy Hirsch fed John Cunningham on the fast break and Cunningham buried his shot past Madalon for a 1-1 tie at 12:44. Carolina answered that goal with Petracca's second goal of the game, this time off a Sean DeLaney assist, at the 9:11 mark. Princeton won the next face-off and Chris McBride tied the game with an unassisted goal at the 7:57 mark.
It took just 1:09 for UNC to recapture the lead as Ed Prevost scored his first goal in a Carolina Blue uniform, burying a shot from the ride side from 10 yards out to make it 3-2 with 6:48 left in the quarter. Cryder DiPietro then scored his first of the game, off the initial assist by Dunster, giving the Heels a 4-2 lead with 5:27 left in the first quarter. Carolina had a long possession at the end of the period and Bitter found Petracca alone on the crease for a putaway but Petracca's shot came a split second after the horn ending the quarter.
The Heels scored the first three goals of the second quarter to run their scoring streak to five straight, taking a 7-2 lead with 3:39 left before halftime. Petracca delivered his third goal of the game at 9:30, assisted by DiPietro and then UNC middies chipped in with the next two tallies. DeLaney beat Fiorito low at the 4:33 mark and Dunster then went high and hard for a 7-2 lead with 3:39 to play in the half. Princeton, however, did not go away as unassisted goals by Chris McBride and Mike Chanenchuk at 2:06 and 1:14 cut UNC's lead to three goals at halftime.
Carolina came out of halftime and grabbed the momentum again as Dunster put up his second tally at 11:32 and Petracca scored his fourth goal, assisted by Dunster, at 7:58 to restore Carolina's five-goal lead at 9-4. Princeton then made two key plays that would prove important as they mounted their comeback. First, after a slashing penalty on Long Ellis at 7:24 of the third quarter, the Heels were unable to get a shot off on the EMO, eventually turning the ball over. After weathering that storm, UNC got the ball back and Thomas Wood found himself behind the defense for a one-on-one opportunity against Fiorito. The Princeton goalie made the save at 5:28 of the period, denying the Tar Heels a premium chance at taking a 10-4 lead.
Princeton scored on its next possession. After Madalon made a save on a shot by Chris McBride at 4:16, Engelke stuck on unassisted 10 seconds later after the restart. UNC answered that goal quickly, as Michael Burns won the face-off and then scored off an assist by Bitter just eight seconds after the Princeton goal. It did not take long for the Tigers to answer, however, as Jack McBride scored his first of two successive goals, off a feed by Scott MacKenzie at 2:54. Jack McBride scored again with 34 seconds left in the quarter to make it 10-7 and after winning the face-off, Princeton got off two more shots, by Engelke and Chris McBride, before the end of the period.
Princeton won the fourth quarter face-off and defenseman John Cunningham almost scored his second goal of the game, hitting the post at the 14:37 mark. The Tar Heels got possession and their next four shots were off cage before Fiorito made a save on a shot by DiPietro with 12:13 left in the quarter. Carolina forced a turnover and Jonathan Meyers of the Tigers was called for pushing with 11:35 to play. Carolina had three shots on the extra-man chance with both DeLaney and Dunster hitting the post so the Tar Heel lead stayed at three goals.
Fiorito made his second big save of the period at 9:47 on a shot by Dunster and the Princeton goalie cleared the ball on his own, leading to a fast break goal by Engelke, assisted by Chris McBride with 9:33 to play. On the clear, UNC's DiPietro was also called for an illegal body check, giving the Tigers a man-up opportunity. Princeton converted with one second left on the EMO as Chanenchuk scored off an assist by MacKenzie, making the score 10-9 with 8:34 to play.
After a long UNC possession, Billy Bitter's shot was blocked and the Tigers got the ball back. They were patient on offense and eventually Chanenchuk tied the game on an alley dodge down the right side with 4:46 to play. Princeton had scored five straight and the game was tied 10-10, very similar to the situation the Tar Heels faced last Wednesday in Durham when Duke erased a three-goal UNC lead in the third quarter and tied the game before the Heels pulled away for the win.
After Princeton tied the game, the Tigers won the face-off but Ryan Flanagan caused a turnover, taking the ball away from Jack McBride. Logan Corey won the ground ball and cleared it for UNC and a little over a minute later, Bitter dodged from behind to score on the left side of the crease for an 11-10 lead at the three-minute mark. Princeton won the next face-off, but it was Bitter who checked the ball out of John Cunningham's stick on the grandstand side of the field. The ball rolled out of bounds, giving the Heels possession.
UNC did not sit on its lead as DiPietro scored at 2:10 off the Dunster assist. Princeton again won the face-off, its sixth face-off win of the fourth quarter, but the Tar Heel defense held firm and almost a minute went off the clock before Madalon made a save on a shot by Chris McBride at 1:16. Madalon turned the ball over 16 seconds later on the clear but UNC's Tyler Morton came up with a big play, stripping Jeff Froccaro of the ball with 50 seconds to play. UNC was able to clear but Bitter found himself quadruple teamed and a turnover was forced by Cunningham with 21 seconds to play. Princeton rushed the ball upfield and got the final goal at two seconds but the Tar Heels were able to hold on for their second one-goal decision of the season.
The 11 goals were the most allowed by UNC since Duke beat the Tar Heels 12-11 in the NCAA quarterfinals on May 17, 2009. UNC's offense continues to produce goals as Carolina has now scored in double figures in 14 of its last 15 contests.
Photos: Mark Abbott
North Carolina vs. Princeton