Chapel Hill, NC - The 15th ranked North Carolina Tarheels fought back from deficits of 3-0 and 9-7 to overtake the 5th ranked Johns Hopkins Blue Jays, 13-10. UNC was able to reel off the last three goals of the game. UNC had a very balanced day on the score sheet as five players contributed two goals each and three others added solos. Sophomore goalie Grant Zimmerman was the difference maker, however, with his 15 saves, eight of which came in the first half. Hopkins was led by senior Jake Byrne's four goals.
The first quarter pace was pretty much controlled by Hopkins. The Blue Jays managed twelve shots in the quarter, but Zimmerman came to play early. He stopped eight shots in the opening stanza. UNC couldn’t capitalize on it as Hopkins forced turnovers on the ride on three of the eight clears in the period. Despite controlling the pace early, Hopkins wasn’t able to get the scoreboard moving until Jake Byrne put his first of four on the day with 1:31 to play in the quarter from Austin Walker. With :12 left in the period, Steven Boyle found Michael Kimmel on a man-up and Kimmel found the back of the net.
Byrne would strike again early in the second off a nice offensive possession. Carolina’s offense got a kick-start when they drew an illegal body check foul on Hopkins’ Dave Spaulding. On the ensuing man-up Carolina displayed some nice ball movement until Gavin Petracca found Nick Tintle who put UNC on the board with 12:23 left in the half.
“I think there were plays in the game that were big moments where we didn’t make good plays. We’re up 3-1, we foul, boom-boom, now it’s 3-3. We’ve gotta make better plays at critical times. It’s one of the things that in the Virginia game I said. Virginia made critical plays when they had to. Today, in the first half we made the critical plays that we had to, in the 2nd half we didn’t,” said Hopkins head coach Dave Pietramala.
Both teams decided to put on a show for the rest of the quarter, the result was arguably the most exciting stretch of lacrosse so far this season. To start, Boyle seemingly scored for Hopkins, but the goal was waved off for what appeared to be a moving pick. Carolina cleared the ball as defenseman Brian Burke carried the ball up into the offensive box. His younger brother Sean, an attackman, made a nice backdoor cut completely leaving his defenseman. The two connected and he had essentially a one-on-one with Hopkins goalie Jesse Schwartzman to cut the lead to 3-2 (8:40 left in the half). Carolina midfielder Brian Connors was given just a tiny bit of room, enough that he was able to rip a lefty shot in to tie the game (7:16).
On the next face-off, there was a little bit of a tie-up, but Carolina’s FOGO Shane Walterhoefer directed the ball back to himself. He picked up the groundball and looked to carry it back to outlet to his goalie out in the alley. As he was doing that, Hopkins’ LSM, Brendan Skakandi got his stick on his. Tom Duerr came up with the turnover and put in the empty netter for Hopkins eight seconds later (7:08). The next face-off, Walterhoefer again directed the ball out, this time he got a play-on push call. UNC longpole Tim Kaiser came up with the looseball ending the play-on. He pushed it downfield. No slide came, and he put a right-handed shot in to tie the game again (6:54).
The next face-off, Carolina was called for illegal procedure awarding Hopkins the ball. Off the whistle, Paul Rabil drove and gave Hopkins the lead once again (6:36). The 3,582 fans in attendance were given a little breather, until UNC attackman Gavin Petracca banged the ball from X to Rob Driscoll. Despite having little angle, Driscoll squeezed it past Schwartzman tying the game at 5 (4:49).
Shortly after, UNC was successful in stopping Hopkins’ offense and had to clear the ball. A longpole was carrying it up and basically had to run down the sideline to cross midfield as Steven Boyle was trailing. Instead, he turned back to throw it back to the goalie. Boyle made a nice jump to swat the ball down. Zimmerman came flying for the groundball and got it. It looked like he was pushed with possession of the ball, but no call was made. So there was a scrum with the goalie well above the restraining line. The ball was slowly directed towards the corner, but neither team could come up with it. Eventually, Carolina was called for a 20-second failure to cross midfield. Hopkins ball. They called a timeout. Off the timeout, they worked it around to sophomore midfielder Brian Christopher. Christopher drove down the right side and took a righty jump shot. The slow bouncer fooled Zimmerman and just bounced over him high into the net (3:25 left). UNC would strike before the end of the half to send the game tied at 6 into the locker room.
“There are a couple of areas that concern me. We came in at halftime and it’s 6-6. They’re excited that it’s 6-6, we’re disappointed that it’s 6-6. I think we have to be mentally tougher. All 6-6 means to me, is that we’ve got thirty minutes to go win a ball game and we didn’t do that,” said Pietramala.
The third quarter was just as dramatic. Petracca again assisted to give Carolina their first lead on the day on a Nick Tintle goal on a man-up. Down 7-6, Hopkins reeled off three straight goals. The first came from Kimmel at the end of a long possession. That was followed by an Austin Walker jump shot. Their 9th came when Stephen Peyser pulled the ball out, drove down the wing and banged it over to Byrne. Byrne ripped it low past Zimmerman to give Hopkins a 9-7 lead.
UNC answered with a three goal run of their own. It started with a Driscoll unassisted goal, followed by Sean Delaney from Sean Burke to tie the game at 9 heading into the 4th quarter. To get the 4th quarter started, Bart Wagner fed a cutting Brian Connors. Running out of an angle to shoot from, Connors caught the pass righty and put a behind-the-back shot in giving UNC a 10-9 lead.
“He was open in the middle, he made a nice handle there. That was the shot that he had to take at that time. Brian has been one of those unsung guys for us all year long. He’s done all that little stuff for us. Today he played a tremendous game,” said UNC coach John Haus.
Not fazed, Hopkins had a decent possession, but Tim Kaiser beat out an errant shot to the end-line giving UNC possession behind the goal. On the clear, they overthrew it at the midfield. Hopkins defenseman Eric Zerrlaut came up with the groundball. He made a nice rollback towards the middle away from traffic and found Rabil across midfield. Rabil pushed it down and hit Byrne. Byrne nonchalantly ripped a sidearm shot past Zimmerman. No celebration, all business, as the senior notched his 4th on the day, and 13th on the year.
With a man-up and the game tied, Hopkins had a chance to take some momentum with 8:15 left in the game. To start the man-up, Hopkins quickly executed a play and got a player open on the doorstep. The pass was slightly high and he jumped and landed in the crease awarding the ball to UNC. Off the turnover, Carolina capitalized as Brian Connors found Michael Burns. Burns put a bounce shot in giving Carolina the lead for good with 7:11 to play. On the next possession, Sean Burke ran through the Hopkins defense and found himself one-on-one with Schwartzman. He faked him out and found the back of the net and a 12-10 lead for the Tarheels.
From there, Carolina played stall ball. Hopkins wasn’t without their opportunities; they just didn’t capitalize on them. With just over five minutes to play, Carolina made a nice defenseive stop and pushed it down on offense. They had a chance on the doorstep, but dropped the pass. A Carolina player came up with it and put the ball in the net for what appeared to be their 13th goal. However, he had stepped in the crease, so no goal. Schwartzman took the ball and sprinted to the alley to win the whistle and push the transition. Unfortunately, defenseman Matt Bocklet was down on the field with a cramp. They turned it over. Midfielder George Castle was clearing the ball later and he too went down with a cramp. Hopkins retained possession however as no one was near Castle when he went down.
With 1:59 to go, Carolina had just stopped Hopkins again and needed to clear the ball. Hopkins used a timeout and set up a ride. The ride forced the first pass to be all the way across the field to the top of the box. It was set up as they wanted and as Skakandi closed on the clearing middie, he slipped, basically giving him a free clear to the midfield. Hopkins recovered and the UNC middie felt pressure. So he just flicked it behind him into the middle of the box area. A UNC attackman came up with it and was pressured immediately. Just before the ball was knocked down, the UNC coaching staff made a heads-up timeout call to keep possession. Hopkins would get the ball back once more, but a miscommunication left them off-sides on the clear. Carolina would add one more with :28 to play, but it didn’t matter because Hopkins wouldn’t get the ball of the face-off.
The big differences in the game came on the success Carolina had facing off and the play of Zimmerman in net. They also had a 42-31 groundball advantage.
“When you look at face-offs and groundballs, that’s just too many defensive possessions. You know on a hot day like today, we wind up cramping up a little bit. But give North Carolina credit. Their goalie had a spectacular day, I would say he was a big difference in the game as he made some terrific saves. But we’ve been on the other side of that as well, it’s all a part of it. I just don’t think we played particularly great, and I don’t think we’re playing particularly great lacrosse right now. We’re playing hard, we’re trying, but we’re not getting the job done at the face-off X. We didn’t get the job done on the groundballs today. When push came to shove, our defense didn’t do a great job in the 2nd half. We didn’t really do a great job defensively. But this is a team loss. As I told them in the locker room, we have a choice right now. We’re 4-3, we’re right where we were a year ago. The difference is a year ago we weren’t playing Duke, we were playing Mount St. Mary’s. This year we’re playing Duke and Duke is a tough game, it’s a challenge, but it’s an opportunity. We need to be a little bit more determined,” said Pietramala.
“When you lose, you still got to do something well and riding’s something that we are doing well. If you want to talk about did we match their emotion, you look at the riding game and say ‘are you riding hard?’ That’s an intense part of the game; we are doing a good job there. We’re just giving the other teams too many possessions. When you’re 9 of 25 facing off, that’s seven more possessions for them. And on a hot day, that’s a factor. Hey, hat’s off to Carolina, we need to go back to work. We need to start playing better lacrosse. We’re not playing great lacrosse right now. I think the word for us right now is determined, we need to be a little more determined every day at practice.”
For UNC, this was a huge win coming off of two ACC losses. It should give them extra confidence as they head to Virginia next weekend.
“I think most importantly it means a lot to the players. That’s the most important thing here. Now they have the confidence to start believing,” said Haus.
“I think I liked our emotion, the way our kids were prepared for the game. They were emotionally ready to go, both mentally, which is real important, and physical too. And they played with confidence. We got down by three early, we got down by two late, they just played with confidence and kept making plays. I was really proud of that. You’re going to win lacrosse games by getting groundballs. You gotta have saves. We talked to our goalie about that. I think it was important for him to get off on the right foot. He probably made three or four saves in that first quarter right away and that helps you as a team, especially defensively. Facing off, if you can control the ball, you’re going to give yourself obviously that many more opportunities to score. Shane’s [Walterhoefer] a warrior on the inside and Coach Lattimore’s worked with him and they’ve done a great job,” Haus added.
“The thing is, especially with our schedule, the tournament’s way, way down the road. We told our guys three weeks that every game it gets tougher and tougher. We’ve gotta go to Charlottesville next weekend. They’re defending national champs and they’re as good a team as we’ll play all year long. It’s important that you continue to work hard, you continue to get better and you just stay focused on your opponent each week.”
For junior midfielder Rob Driscoll, who scored two goals on the day, he could hardly hide his excitement after the game.
“We said all week. We hadn’t beaten them in thirteen years. We had our freshmen pull up the starting rosters from that year and throw it up in the locker room. We ripped it up when we won. It feels good,” said Driscoll.
|Sean Burke||(2, 1)|
|Gavin Petracca||(0, 3)|
|Nick Tintle||(2, 1)|
|Brian Connors||(2, 1)|
|Ben Hunt||(2, 0)|
|Rob Driscoll||(2, 0)|
|Sean Delaney||(1, 1)|
|Michael Burns||(1, 0)|
|Bart Wagner||(0, 1)|
|Brian Burke||(0, 1)|
|Tim Kaiser||(1, 0)|
|Grant Zimmerman||15 (0.600)|