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The UNC lacrosse season has begun

The defending national champions look to build on last year’s success.

NCAA Lacrosse: National Championship-North Carolina vs Maryland Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

It’s February, which means that college lacrosse season has begun. Carolina defeated the University of Maryland Baltimore County on Saturday 17-6 in the first game of the season, and the #1-ranked Tar Heels play at Furman on Saturday. As the defending national champions, the Tar Heels have rather high expectations with the season underway.

Players to Watch

Another national championship run is possible, as the Tar Heels return their two most important players. Junior attackman Chris Cloutier had a breakout NCAA tournament last year, when he scored 19 goals to set a new tournament record. He had nine goals in a semifinal game against Loyola, and he scored the game-winning goal in overtime to give the Tar Heels their first NCAA lacrosse championship since 1991. Cloutier was also named the Most Astounding Player of the NCAA tournament and will likely be the team’s greatest offensive threat this season.

Accompanying Cloutier is fellow junior attackman Luke Goldstock. The New York native had 31 goals and led the team with 22 assists last year. There is no doubt that he will once again be a major piece of the team this season.

Another important player to watch this season is junior midfielder Brian Cannon. He had 13 goals last season as a sophomore, however, with the departure of several players from last year’s squad, he will be a starter this season. He seems to be primed for a break-out year and will likely be a major player on a team that hopes to win another national championship.

One thing of note is that this will be freshman attackman/midfielder Andrew Montross’ first season, and to many Carolina fans that last name might be familiar. It’s not a coincidence, Andrew is the son of former Tar Heel basketball player Eric Montross.

Previewing the Schedule

Looking ahead, Carolina’s early schedule looks fairly easy. Home games against Hofstra, Richmond, Darmouth, and Lehigh should be fairly easy, and the upcoming road trip to Furman shouldn’t be difficult. Carolina’s first really important game will come on March 4 at #3 ranked Denver. Denver has been a force in the lacrosse world over the last few years, and a win on the road there will definitely help build Carolina’s resume to get into the NCAA tournament. This is important because the ACC no longer automatically qualifies due to having too few teams.

Other important games will be at home against Maryland on March 25, at home against Duke on April 2 to kick off ACC play, at Virginia on April 9, at home against Syracuse on April 15, and at Notre Dame on April 22. Every ACC team is good this year, and Carolina will have no problem getting into the NCAA tournament with a 3-1 or even 2-2 record in conference play. As was shown last year, seeding doesn’t really matter (Carolina won despite being unseeded).

We will see if the Tar Heels can repeat the success of last year and bring another national championship home to Chapel Hill.