CHAPEL HILL, N.C.--Tim Paul scored a career-high four goals, to lead Navy (10-5) to a thrilling 8-7 upset victory over No. 4 seed North Carolina (8-6) in the first round of the NCAA Men's Lacrosse Tournament Saturday night at Fetzer Field. Navy advances to play the winner of Sunday's Johns Hopkins-Hofstra game next Saturday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium at either 12 noon or 3 p.m.
The Tar Heels are the highest seeded team Navy has defeated in the NCAA Tournament since 1981 when the Mids upset No. 3 seed Army, 16-8.
"The game went the way it needed to go for us to win," said Navy head coach Richie Meade. "Our defense played outstanding, specifically our goalie Tommy Phelan. I felt like our offense was opportunistic and disciplined. I'm thankful that we were able to win the game tonight."
The game was a back-and-forth affair with huge momentum swings on both sides. Navy dominated play for most of the first half, jumping out to a 4-1 lead on two goals by Paul and a goal each by Zack Schroeder and Gregory Clement.
Clement's goal came with 3:33 left in the second quarter and, after winning the faceoff, it looked like the Mids would go into the locker room with at least a three goal lead. Navy, however, would turn the ball over twice on unforced errors and the Tar Heels responded with goals by Gavin Petracca with 1:52 left and Nick Tintle with 54 seconds remaining to cut Navy's lead to 4-3 at the intermission.
The Tar Heels continued their momentum at the start of the third quarter as Petracca scored his second goal of the game just 36 seconds in to tie the game at four.
The game did not stay tied for long as 2:16 later Paul put Navy back up for good at 5-4 off an assist from Patrick Moran and then scored his fourth goal of the game on an unassisted goal four minutes later to make it 6-4. Terence Higgins completed Navy's run with an unassisted goal off a wild scramble for a loose ball at the 6:39 mark to make it 7-4. The goal for Higgins was his first since last year's NCAA Tournament game against North Carolina.
Carolina would answer right back with a goal by Petracca, his third goal of the game, with 13:17 remaining to make it 7-5 and then Bart Wagner pulled the Tar Heels to within one at 7-6 with 7:32 left.
After Wagner's goal, Navy would win the ensuing faceoff, but quickly lost the ball on a Thomas Zimmerman turnover. Zimmerman's errant pass was picked off by Jack Ryan, who turned to throw a pass behind the goal to Tar Heel goalie Grant Zimmerman. Navy's Nick Mirabito stepped in front of Ryan's pass, picking it off at point blank range, and turned and fired the ball into the empty net to give Navy an 8-6 lead with 5:14 left.
North Carolina made one final run at the Mids as Ben Hunt, Carolina's leading goal scorer, netted his first goal of the game with 44 seconds left to make it 8-7. The Tar Heels won the faceoff and got off three shots against a stout Navy defense, but none came close to scoring. Carolina's last shot was a desperation heave by Hunt as the clock struck 0:00 and the Navy team stormed the field in celebration.
"North Carolina is as skilled and instinctive team that you will face offensively," said Meade. "You are not going to beat them unless the goalkeeper makes 10 or more saves and your defense is disciplined."
Phelan was sensational in goal for the Mids, making 12 saves, several from point blank range. The Navy defense forced 12 Carolina turnovers and forced the Tar Heels into a dreadful 14 of 26 on clears.
"Looking into the seniors' eyes after losing to Colgate and seeing how disappointed they were, there was no way I could let them go out that way," said Phelan. "I did everything I could do to get back home and play again. It wasn't for me, it was for them (the seniors)."
"This may have been the best game of Tommy's career," said Meade. "He played against a very skilled offensive team and he was crucial in us winning tonight."
The win by the Mids is their first NCAA Tournament win since defeating Delaware, 9-7, in the first round of the 2005 NCAA Tournament, while Carolina lost an NCAA Tournament game at home for just the third time in school history (13-3).
"As far as being underdogs tonight, we were underdogs at Midway too. That's really the way we have to look at it. You are looking at young men who will defend our country in a few years," said Meade. "The only way we win this game is if you put all the intangibles they learn at the Naval Academy and apply them to lacrosse. We have taken our hits this year, but you wouldn't expect us not to rise again."
|Gavin Petracca||(3, 0)|
|Nick Tintle||(1, 2)|
|Bart Wagner||(2, 1)|
|Ben Hunt||(1, 0)|
|Shane Walterhoefer||(0, 1)|
|Grant Zimmerman||13 (0.619)|