CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Seventh-ranked North Carolina held sixth-ranked Ohio State scoreless for a period of 34:23 while scoring eight straight goals to rally the Tar Heels past the Buckeyes 12-6 in men's lacrosse action before a crowd of 1,012 at Fetzer Field Saturday afternoon. Senior Kevin Frew won 17 of 22 faceoffs for the Tar Heels as he closes in on the school record for faceoffs won in a career and juniors Jed Prossner, Lance Zimmerman and Bryant Will led Carolina offensively as each recorded a hat trick in the goal department.
UNC won its second straight and improved to 9-4 overall with the victory. This is the first time the Tar Heels have reached the nine-win total in a season since the 1996 campaign when North Carolina finished 12-5. North Carolina's victory assured the Tar Heels of an at-large bid to the 2004 NCAA Division I Tournament. Formal bids will be announced Monday at 3:40 p.m. live on ESPNNews. This will be Carolina's first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1998.
Ohio State, which is going to the NCAA Tournament with an automatic bid as the champion of the Great Western Lacrosse League, saw its 11-match winning streak snapped. The Buckeyes ended the regular season 12-3. Both previous losses had come by only one goal -- to Penn State and UMBC.
Ohio State came out with all the early momentum and twice ran to two-goal leads before the Tar Heel defense clamped down. Kyle Olson opened the scoring for the Buckeyes on a goal in the third minute of the game before Will evened the game on the first of his three goals at the 7:14 mark of the first period. The Buckeyes got a pair of goals by Shaun Lyons in the final 2:34 of the first period to retake the lead at 3-1. Lyons' first goal, at 2:34, was assisted by Ryan Laffey. Lyons also added a goal with only five seconds left in the period to boost the OSU lead to two goals.
Carolina bounced back to tie the game quickly. Frew won the opening faceoff of the second period and while being pressured on the right sideline he found Prossner open down the middle of the field for a goal at the 14:44 mark. Will then tied the game for UNC at 13:18 of the second period on an unassisted goal. The Buckeyes regained the momentum on an extra-man goal by Gary Bining, assisted by Anthony Gilardi, at 8:18 and a goal by Andrew Bender, assisted by Craig Nolan, just 24 seconds later after Frew was stripped of possession on the ensuing faceoff.
The Tar Heels then elevated their game and shut down Ohio State, not allowing a goal in the next 34:23. With 6:32 left in the first half, senior midfielder Johnny Seivold pulled the Tar Heels within a goal and then at 5:03, Zimmerman scored the first of his three goals -- his first-ever hat trick -- on a fast break off an assist by defenseman Ronnie Staines. UNC then took the lead for good on Prossner's second goal of the quarter, assisted by Andrew Lucas, on a man-up opportunity wth 1:12 left before halftime.
UNC continued its inspired play in the second half as sophomore attackman Ryan Blair picked up his game, figuring on four of UNC's six goals in the half. At 10:53 of the third period, he fed a cutting Bryant Will from behind the net for a putaway to make the score 7-5. Then with nine seconds left in the third quarter, it was Zimmerman who scooped up a rebound on the edge of the crease and buried it for an 8-5 cushion.
Prossner scored from Blair with 13:22 left in the fourth quarter before Prossner assisted Zimmerman at the 6:49 mark to stretch the lead to 10-5. Blair scored into an empty goal with just over four minutes left in the game to up the lead to 11-5. The Buckeyes forced a turnover after UNC won the ensuing faceoff and Bender scored an unassisted goal with 3:31 to play to break the long scoring drought for OSU. UNC finished off the scoring with 2:41 to play when Will fed Blair cross crease and the sophomore tomahawked the ball down into the goal for the final tally.
UNC dominated the game statistically with 44 shots to 27 for the Buckeyes and 47 ground balls to 23 for Ohio State. Tony Russo made 18 saves for Ohio State and Paul Spellman had nine for Carolina, including six in a row after the fifth Ohio State goal had put the Buckeyes up 5-3 early in the second quarter.
Frew ran his season ground ball total to 117 by claiming 11 in the game. That is the third most ground balls in a single season in UNC history. He has now won 187 faceoffs this season, extending the school record he set in the ACC Tournament semifinals against Virginia. Frew has now won 414 faceoffs in his career, 15 shy of the school record held by Jude Collins (1993-96).
North Carolina vs. Ohio State