One of the strangest and most inexplicable droughts in men's lacrosse ended on Sunday when UNC advanced to the Final Four for the first time since 1993. UNC grabbed a 13-9 win over #3 Notre Dame on Sunday in a game that wasn't actually that close. It was the second win this season over the Irish.
With the win, UNC finally breaks through to the sport's final weekend after 23 years of frustration. UNC won a national title in men's lacrosse back in 1991(the program's fourth) and in the last appearance at the Final Four lost 13-12 to Syracuse in the title game. What followed was a string of seasons that ended on the outside looking in which is pretty remarkable given the factors. For one there hasn't generally been a lot of parity in men's lacrosse and UNC was well situated year in and year out to compete. There is also the fact advancing to the Final Four only takes two wins. In the over two decades since UNC's last appearance the Tar Heels have had chance after chance to get over that hump but couldn't.
So naturally the least likely team of the bunch finally breaks through. UNC entered the tournament unseeded and forced to open play at #6 Marquette then take on Notre Dame who was undoubtedly looking for revenge after the Heels upset the Irish in the regular season. Instead the Tar Heels dominated from the jump and led by as much as 12-3 before a late rally by the Irish closed the final margin to just four.
UNC will face #7 overall seed Loyola on Saturday in Philadelphia which was fairly hospitable to the last Tar Heel team that played postseason games there.
On the women's side, Jenny Levy's program continues to roll with a sixth trip to the Final Four in eight seasons. UNC also knocked off Notre Dame 10-6 to advance to the national semifinals as the #3 overall seed. UNC will face Penn State in Chester, PA on Friday while a pair of rivals in #1 Maryland and #4 Syracuse battle on the other side of the bracket.
UNC will be seeking a second national title in women's lacrosse while the men will be hunting for NCAA title #5.