No. 12 ranked UNC didn’t spare any of that sweet southern charm on No. 19 ranked Fairfield University as the Tar Heels unleashed their demons from end to end. Carolina’s quarterly dominance silenced the crowd of almost one thousand spectators on hand (Fairfield, Conn.) Freshman attacker Mike McCall (Yorktown, NY) had the Midas touch on Saturday registering four goals and four assists to match. Junior attacker Matt Buecker (North Hartford HS, MD) led the Stags with two goals and an assist. While the point distribution wouldn’t suggest any sort of a competitive contest worth the attention, the outcomes underscore each team’s need to prove their individual NCAA tourney legitimacy (ceteris paribus:) translation - no politics, no b.s. Whether stripped of your conference label, GWLL or ACC, shouldn’t it be that only the best go to the dance?
UNC and FU entered the Saturday contest with identical 7-4 records. FU claimed the GWLL conference crown from last year’s final four contender Notre Dame, although the Irish have had a mildly anemic 2002 season. Harvard beat Notre Dame on Saturday by one goal and FU lost to Harvard by two goals on March 16th (8-10.) Without putting too much confidence on correlational data, the scores don’t really prove FU’s dominance (even with discounting the Air Force loss.) Meanwhile, UNC is 1-2 in ACC play (Virginia 3-0, Duke 1-2, Maryland 1-2.) Last year, UNC beat Fairfield 12-7. In combination with respectable records and a history of somewhat competitive play, all the trappings of a good meal were there. Add to that the unspoken intensity of NCAA tourney hopeful UNC and the hype of NCAA tourney bound FU. The stakes were clearly high for both teams. With Syracuse, Hopkins, UMass, Fairfield, Virginia, Manhattan, Princeton/Brown, and Albany as likely contenders, teams like Hofstra, Georgetown, Princeton should they lose to Brown, Loyola, Duke, Cornell and UNC are left to sweat the technique. All the speculation will end on May 5th as there have been match ups that have thrown off the mix like Virginia's loss to Penn State on Saturday - and even more to be resolved. There will be more breathing room next year as the field has expanded from 12 to 16 according to the NCAA committee ruling on April 27th. Needless to say, the issue of entitlement and legitimacy becomes more pronounced with such few seats left in the brackets. The AQ debate has struck the collective swollen nerve of coaches, players and fans alike. While the long-term effects of the AQ equation/vision have yet to be realized, one thing is certain: the AQ process has drummed up the controversy reminiscent of the affirmative action collegiate admission’s process. The issue of fairness consistently emerges especially when the ruling of the selection committee resembles the Eastern European voting bloc of Olympic ice-dancing judges on artistic merit. This begs the question, ‘Are the drivers for the selection criteria based on expansion or senseless exclusion?’ Setting aside all the drama, it is brainlessly evident that the AQ phenomenon is complex and dizzying.
At the top of the first quarter, the Stags snagged the faceoff. Sophomore middie Tom Werney (Somers HS, NY) fired from up top just a quarter step past the restraining line. The shot went wide of the cage. The Tar Heels gained possession and worked the ball down field. UNC worked the ball on X and got it to junior Austin Garrison (New Canaan, CT) who unleashed a short and hard one upper right 90 at 13:34 (1-0.) Nearly one minute later, team mate senior Tar Heel Pat Jackson (Loyola, MD) scored off an assist from freshman attacker Mike McCall (Yorktown, NY) bringing the score 2-0. Jackson hit top right after getting a quick look once he got out of the traffic at 12:28. The third goal was a slow motion example in reverse on how and when you should call for a timeout. UNC found the net a mere :15 sec later in a fast paced series. The Tar Heels’ offensive efforts were being complimented beautifully by FU’s defensive tea break. The passes were sharp and accurate and the slides not even slower, but just slow. The ball started at the top of the box and then was passed to frosh Jed Prossner (McDonough, MD) who camped out on the right side lip of the crease. Prossner then threaded the needle cross crease to McCall who ripped one in lower right pipe at 12:13 (3-0.) The Stags debuted their settled-O play that would become an easy read for Carolina not in the far too distant future. FU was in a 1-4-1 with the ball up top. The player would challenge in an effort to ‘split’ the defense on any of the guns on crease patrol for a quick dump pass and then an even quicker turn and shot. The passes often were telegraphed and picked up by Carolina defense sans the long stick. Carolina then regained possession and Jackson took a shot from up top but it went wide at 9:25. McCall worked the ball behind. Carolina’s offense challenged where appropriate drawing the ‘D’ and hitting the open cutter coming through. Unfortunately, FU would move the ball around to no end. The supporting cast failed to pop up or create any effective off ball opportunities. UNC broke down into a 1-4-1 settled offense. Tar Heel Bryant Will (Dulaney, MD) fed an open Prossner at 7:54 for an open look shot upper left (4-0.) FU gained possession of the faceoff but then shot wide of their patented 1-4-1 play. The ball changed possession several times before the Stags were able to break the scoring seal with nice stack-pick-screen combo platter on the goalie’s left side. Junior middie Ricky Voight (South Side HS, NY) found sophomore attacker Garrett Bamann (Victory, NY). Bamann found the mesh on an off-paced bouncer that hit lower right pipe (1-4.) UNC closed out the first on another McCall-Prossner combo. The offense swung the ball to the right corner of the box. Prossner fed McCall who singed FU junior keeper C.J. Kemp’s leftside hip (Georgetown Prep, MD) increasing the margin by four (5-1) at 1:06.
UNC scored four of the five goals in the second quarter. McCall found Prossner for a cross crease feed at 14:21. Prossner found the soft spot between Kemp’s hip and right pipe for 6-1. Both teams were quiet for the next eight minutes. UNC finally found net again off goal from McCall who was fed from Will for 7-1. Will who at times acted as an impressive playmaker challenged up top using his 6-4, 200 lb. edge effectively on the mismatch on his shorty-D. Will found McCall freed up on the left side of the crease. McCall then shot right over the goalie’s left shoulder. UNC reminded FU of a simple lacrosse truth: the ball moves fastest. In a textbook caused turnover, seamless midfield transition, the two step advantage at each 30-yd. interval compounded for an incredibly open shot. Long stick pass from the sideline to McCall who then pegged an open sophomore attacker Andrew Lucas (Gilman, MD) for a nasty hip-high right side shot (8-1) at 6:00. The Tar Heels scored again when Jackson found Bell who cranked one from out wide past the goalie’s right hip (9-1) at 3:46. Fairfield responded 20 seconds later when Matt Buecker beat his long stick and worked the net off a feed from sophomore middie Rory McCarthy (West Genesee HS, NY) bringing the score 2-9 at 3:25.
Of the seven goals in the third quarter, five were scored by UNC. Tar Heel Andrew Lucas (Gilman, MD) scored the first two goals of the period bringing the score to 11-2. Lucas’ second EMO goal was a bouncer that skimmed low left corner. McCall scored unassisted for UNC again on another EMO (12-2) as the ball was worked from X and McCall bit turf on a diving shot in the keeper’s dimehole. This was one of many key stats for UNC. The Tar Heels capitalized on six to FU’s two EMOs. Fairfield committed nine penalties to UNC’s five. Stags’ Matt Buecker found the back of the net with a sweet compact spinning underhand shot that hit net high at 7:22 (3-12.) Senior attacker Marc Torrey is credited with the assist. Tar Heel junior middie Justin Reed scored for the Heels on a shot lower left for 13-3 at 5:21. FU put a little tiger in the tank on the next goal. Middie FU ‘D’ snagged a key interception and started the fast break until a 2 v. 1 attack was in the Tar Heel zone. Stags’ Buecker came down on the right side of the field hard and found sophomore attack Troy Bamann (Bridgton, CT) with a short cross crease bounce pass. Bamann then faked the goalie high and tagged one low for 4-13 at 3:32. UNC rounded out the third with an unassisted shot by Will who cranked a low to high riser from out wide for 14-4.
The Stags’ last minute comeback was a little too late. Four of the five goals in the fourth were from the Stags. UNC scored the first and their last goal of the period when McCarthy at the top corner of the box found Jackson snacking on the crease for a low right shot (15-4.) The Stags were able to convert on an EMO goal when McCarthy scored from a scorcher out wide and hit upper left 90 of a feed from senior middie Rob Scipioni (Mahopac HS, NY) for 5-15 at 10:58. Freshman attacker AJ Califano (Suffern, NY) scored a deuce one of which was a low dive shot that hit net hip high right 7-15. FU made it exciting in the last second with a ‘hi fidelity’ goal from junior attacker John Kusak (Bridgton, CT) just one tick shy of the buzzer. Final score 15-8 UNC.
Despite FU’s valiant 10th hour heroics, the damage could have been worse if the scrubs from Carolina made even half of the shots during their ‘shooting drill.’ UNC had 49 to FU’s 26 shots on goal. The UNC keeper frosh Paul Spellman (St. Paul’s, MD) didn’t make it any easier for FU and came out with 17 saves. FU failed to move the keeper and gave Spellman even easier reads. All eyes will be on the Hofstra-Carolina match up on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in Hempstead, N.Y.
Fairfield vs. North Carolina