CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Junior midfielder Sean Delaney scored back-to-back goals 50 seconds apart with less than six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and senior Grant Zimmerman saved Patrick Moran's shot with less than one second to play as the No. 5-ranked North Carolina men's lacrosse team edged No. 9-ranked Navy 9-8 Friday night at Fetzer Field. The back-and-forth game before a crowd of 1,442 fans on a 33-degree night witnessed the seventh one-goal decision between the two squads since 2000.
The one-goal victory by the Tar Heels was only the second time in the last 69 games in which the Tar Heels have emerged victorious in a game decided by a single goal. Carolina is 2-7 in one-goal games in that stretch. The other win was February 23, 2008 when Carolina won 6-5 at Denver. It was also only the second time in the past 69 games in which the Tar Heels trailed in the fourth quarter and came back to win. The other occasion was March 11, 2008 in an 8-6 win at Providence.
Carolina improved to 3-0 in Head Coach Joe Breschi's first season while Navy fell to 2-1 in a coaching matchup of Tar Heel alumni between Breschi, Class of '90, and Navy's Richie Meade, Class of '76. The game was as scintillating and as tightly contested as last year's 8-7 win by the Naval Academy over the Heels on the same field in the first round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament when the Midshipmen upset the fourth-seeded UNC side. Friday night's victory was only the second in the last eight games in the series between the two teams. Each team has now won 12 contests in the 24-game series.
UNC sped to a 3-0 lead but Navy erased that by halftime before taking its first lead 3:15 into the second half. The remainder of the second half saw mini scoring runs by the two teams with Carolina scoring three straight to go up 7-5, Navy answering with three in a row to lead 8-7 and Delaney striking for the last two tallies to provide the Tar Heels with the winning margin.
Both Delaney and senior attackmanBart Wagner scored three goals each for the Tar Heels while senior midfielder Ben Hunt, sophomore attackman Billy Bitter and senior midfielder Bobby McAuley each had one goal. Wagner has now recorded a point in 45 of 47 career games while Hunt has at least one point in 17 successive games. Bitter and Hunt each had two assists in the game as well.
All eight Midshipmen goals came from members of the junior class. Navy was led offensively by junior attackman Tim Paul, who had three goals and an assist. Junior attackman Brendan Connors had two goals and one assist for the Mids while junior midfielder Patrick Moran, junior midfielder Basil Daratsos and junior long-stick midfielder Zack Schroeder had single tallies. Sophomore attackman Andy Warner added two assists for the Midshipmen.
Navy had a distinct advantage in possession time, working the clock and taking high percentage shots. Navy ended with a 36-28 shot edge but despite having a lot of excellent looks at Grant Zimmerman only 18 of the 36 shots were on goal. Zimmerman made 10 saves while allowing eight goals. UNC was limited to 28 shots by Navy's trademark rugged defense and the Heels also struggled to find the cage, put just 15 on goal as the Mids' Matt Coughlin had six saves.
After UNC led 3-1 after the first quarter, Navy outshot the Heels 12-5 in the second frame and rallied to tie the game at the half 4-4. After both teams scored three times in the third quarter, Navy outshot the Heels 13-6 in the final period but Zimmerman made five of his 10 saves in the final 15 minutes, allowing the Heels to outscore Navy 2-1 in the period.
Rarely is a Navy team on the short end of the ground ball battle but the Tar Heels won that 44-31 in large part due to a 17-4 advantage at the face-off X. UNC senior midfielder Shane Walterhoefer won 16 of 20 face-offs and had a game-leading seven ground balls. It marked the 13th time in his career that Walterhoefer has won 15 or more face-offs in a game.
Despite UNC's advantage in ground balls, Navy was able to keep the game close because the Tar Heels exhibited some impatience on the offensive end, making 21 turnovers, including 12 unforced giveaways. Navy protected the ball bettered with only 12 turnovers and both teams cleared the ball efficiently.
Carolina came out of the gate firing on all cylinders, sparking a 3-0 run in the first 5:23 of the game. Bart Wagner claimed a ground ball in front of the cage and scored the first goal at 12:52 of the first quarter as he beat Coughlin one-on-one on the crease. With 10:22 left in the quarter, Billy Bitter came from the end line and split the Navy defense to easily score the second goal of the game. It took just 45 seconds for Carolina to make it 3-0 as after a face-off win, Ben Hunt fed Bart Wagner for his second goal of the period. Navy would end up scoring on its first shot of the game with Tim Paul finishing an Andy Warner assist to make it 3-1 with 7:14 left in the opening stanza.
Basil Daratsos pulled the Naval Academy within a goal with 12:38 left in the half with Warner getting his second assist of the game. UNC answered just 13 seconds later on Delaney's first of three goals, assisted by Bitter off a Walterhoefer face-off win.
Navy then shut down the Heels for the next 18:56 of the game, taking a 5-4 lead in the process. Patrick Moran had an unassisted goal with 10:28 left before halftime and then after a delay of game turnover after a stalling warning issued against the Tar Heels, Tim Paul fed Brendan Connors for the tying goal 1:06 before halftime.
The Mids struck first in the second half as Paul scored again, assisted by Nikk Davis at 11:45 of the third quarter. Shortly thereafter freshman midfielder Jimmy Dunster made an athletic play on a clearing attempt to win the Heels possession. UNC worked its offense adeptly on the possession with Gavin Petracca feeding from the right side over the defense the Navy defense to an open Bobby McAuley who found the back of the net for a 5-5 tie at 8:29.
That goal sparked Carolina as Hunt scored off an assist by Bitter with 6:04 left in the period and then Wagner scored his second goal of the night after claiming a ground ball in traffic just 29 seconds after the score by Hunt.
On the ensuing face-off, the Mids won one of their mere four face-off victories of the night and it was key as Zack Schroeder won the ground ball, sped in on Zimmerman unmarked and scored with his long stick to made it 7-6 within 10 seconds. That goal led to another momentum shift which resulted in the tying goal by Paul, assisted by Connors, with 2:12 left in the quarter as Paul found himself open on the left wing for a 10-yard putaway.
Neither team scratched in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter but with 8:41 left, Connors dodged a pair of Tar Heel defenders and scored on the crease for an 8-7 lead for the Mids. A little over two minutes later, Ryan O'Leary missed wide and Zimmerman claimed the ground ball. The Heels cleared and Delaney eventually went to the goal with resolve and scored the tying goal with 5:40 to play.
Again the following face-off proved huge as Walterhoefer won it and freshman long-stick defensive midfielder Mark Staines claimed the ground ball. After a shot by Bitter went wide, Hunt found Delaney for the winning goal with 4:50 to play.
The final 4:50 was frenzied indeed on both ends. UNC won the face-off with a ground ball by Michael Jarvis. But the Heels threw it out of the box and despite two ground ball wins by Charlie McComas, the Heels were eventually called for failure to advance, giving the ball back to Navy.
With 3:11 to play, a shot by Moran went wide, Zimmerman got the ground ball and the Heels cleared. UNC turned it over with 1:41 to play but 33 seconds later, Michael Jarvis stripped Tim Paul of the ball, giving possession back to the Heels. Just 13 seconds later, Navy forced another turnover as Jake Brosnan took it away from Wagner and got the ground ball leading to a successful clear. Jason Woppel's shot was saved by Zimmerman with 39 seconds left, Paul retrieved the ground ball and his shot went wide with 27 seconds left after which Navy called timeout.
Charlie McComas provided defensive pressure out of the timeout and almost caused a turnover goal line extended on the left side of the field. The ball dribbled out off McComas but 11 valuable seconds had gone off the clock. Navy had 15 seconds to reset its offense and eventually Moran had a shot from the right side of the box with one second to play but Zimmerman turned it away to help Breschi celebrate his 95th career coaching victory.
Carolina returns to action in just two days as the Tar Heels host No. 17 Colgate Sunday at 1 p.m. at Fetzer Field. Navy has eight days off before traveling to Lewisburg, Pa., to meet Bucknell on February 28 at 1 p.m.
North Carolina vs. Navy