Tar Heels Fend Off Denver, 6-5

Tar Heels Fend Off Denver, 6-5

Tar Heels Fend Off Denver, 6-5

Tar Heels Fend Off Denver, 6-5

Led by two goals from sophomore attackman Gavin Petracca, the North Carolina Tar Heels gutted out a 6-5 victory over the host Pioneers on Saturday afternoon at Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium in Denver, Colo.

After an extended first possession by the Heels to start off the game, momentum quickly swung in the direction of Denver off of an Austin Konkel save (16 on the day) and a fast break goal by freshman midfielder Emerson Eichler.

The two teams traded possessions for about the next 10 minutes until DU scored on their only man-up of the day off the stick of freshman middie Jamie Lincoln. The tally was Lincoln's first of two in the game, and already fifth on the young season.

Down 2-0 heading into the second stanza, Carolina was finally able to shoot one past Konkel and the stingy Denver defense.

Off of a failed clear attempt by the Pioneers, UNC ended up on the right side of a 4-on-3 and junior attackman Bart Wagner, the team's leader in assists with 4, fed his line mate Petracca, and he fired it by the junior Denver netminder.

From there, things got a little interesting.

The Pioneers moved into a pressure zone defense, which slowed down the tempo of the game significantly. However, it didn't help to keep them out of the penalty box because of the inherent physicality of their defensive philosophy.

This led to a 2-man-advantage for Carolina because of back-to-back Denver fouls.

Operating out of an effective pressure diamond formation, the Pioneers forced the already 0-2 UNC man-up unit into a poor outside shot by sophomore middie Cryder DiPietro, which Konkel easily stopped. He then cleared the ball to attackman Ilija Gajic on the other side of the field, who then fed a streaking Bret Koll.

Koll darted past his defender on a backdoor cut right up the middle of the box, accepted the pass, and put it away 2-men down over junior Grant Zimmerman's head.

Up 3-1, Denver was definitely feeling good about themselves, having recaptured what little momentum was lost with the first Carolina goal.

But still on the up-and-up, DiPietro promptly got back into his coaches' good graces, scoring on a worm burner on Konkel's off-stick corner about 40 seconds later for the Heels' lone man-advantage goal of the day (1-10). Credit Wagner with his second assist, but the Pioneers still up 3-2 at the break.

Denver face-off man Ben Wahler (6-15 vs. Shane Walterhoefer) won the first draw of the second half, but UNC became the benefactors of a turnover about two minutes into the third quarter.

Defenseman Payton Sanders knocked the ball out of Petracca's stick as he pressed just outside of the box, but the Tar Heel attackman scooped the ball right back up and with no slide, beat Sanders top-side and then put a hip-level shot past Konkel on his off-stick side.

Suddenly Carolina found itself even with their anything but gracious hosts for the first time in the game, 3-3. The Tar Heels dominated possession the rest of the quarter, rattling off a total of 10 shots to DU's 1, and would take their first lead of the defensive tilt with only 53 seconds left in the period, as part of a game-deciding 4-0 run.

Junior attackman Matthias McCall quick-sticked a beautiful pass from X from freshman Billy Bitter to give the Tar Heels the one-goal lead. From there, aside from a right-handed runner from Denver senior attackman Jon Paulson at the 5:54 mark of the fourth quarter, the UNC midfield corps helped to put their team up by 2 goals twice, 5-3 and then 6-4, to help seal the final result.

After a small fracas between four players that led to offsetting penalties and a 4-on-4 for one minute, Zimmerman and the Carolina `D' surrendered one last goal. Sprinting down the left wing, Denver's Lincoln put a crafty left-handed high-to-high shot past the junior with less than 30 seconds left in the game just after the expiration of the two penalties to both teams.

But despite plenty of pressure, the Tar Heel attackman iced the game with the ball in their sticks to take the 6-5 win.

The loss bumps the Pioneers down to (1-1) as they face a tough task ahead when they travel back East to Maryland this upcoming weekend to face UMBC and Towson in back-to-back games.

North Carolina remains undefeated with the win (2-0) and next up, will welcome the Cornell Big Red to Chapel Hill next weekend.

Photos: Tim Head

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Defensive Battle For Two Good Teams
    by (#136419) on 2/24/08 @2:07PM
This was a good win for the Tar Heels over a very solid Denver team. I predict both teams to make the tournament, and I say that the Tar Heels are a sleeper for the Final Four.
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    by (#185818) on 2/24/08 @4:56PM
great win for the tar heels not a sleeper for the final four...i wont say the final four is set with uva, hopkins, duke, and hopefully cuse but I can't see the tar heels bearing any of those teams if they and when they come face to face (UVA and Duke will deflate their hopes)

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(no subject)
    by (#134864) on 2/24/08 @5:17PM
maybe this will show denver's coach that he needs to go after east coast and midwest talent and lay off the colorado kids
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Colorado Kids
    by (#187423) on 2/24/08 @9:10PM
What you just said made no sense and is the exact opposite and you better open your eyes because east coast teams are going to Colorado to recruite and teams like the Mile-high all-stars just desrtoy what you would call midwest and east coast ( like when they easily won king of the mountain ) talent so wake up more and more CO kids are going D1 every year.
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not so much
    by (#134864) on 2/24/08 @9:59PM
I would put the best east coast team or midwest team against colorados best team and they would get crushed, west geny would destroy there best team, upper arlington from ohio would waist them as well
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(no subject)
    by (#134864) on 2/25/08 @3:00AM
also brother rice, west islip, I really don't see to many colorado kids on the rosters a few here and there and very little of them making a huge impact, if denver ever wants to be elite they need to get the east coast talent in there
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