Expectations were high to start the season for UNC Lacrosse, both on the men’s and women’s sides: The men opened the season ranked 9th in the country, while the women opened at #3. And while there have been typical early-season bumps in the road for both teams, both seemed to right their respective ships this week with big wins over ranked teams: The men beating 14th-ranked Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, 13-11, and the women taking down Maryland, the #1 team in the nation, 16-15 in overtime.
Men’s lacrosse is undefeated so far after four games, but it hasn’t been as easy as one would expect: Two out of their four games so far have needed overtime, and those were against Furman and Lehigh. Their latest victory, however, was an extremely strong performance; after getting down 8-6 in the 3rd quarter, they closed the game 7-3 for the win. Goalkeeper Jack Pezzulla was in fine form, making a career-high 13 saves, several of them at point-blank range. The real story of the game, however, was UNC’s extra man play on both ends of the field, as they converted 3 out of 4 EMO’s into goals while restricting Hopkins to just 2 goals on 4 opportunities. Timmy Kelly was particularly effective on the attack; he had four goals in the game including three in a row to give UNC a lead that they would never relinquish. UNC does need to work on its ground game, however, as they have been beaten handily at picking up ground balls in two consecutive contests now, making games tighter than they should be. Here are highlights from the game:
Still, it was an excellent win, and hopefully, this gives them some momentum going into the meat of their schedule, the next four games of which include a visit to Hofstra and a game against #4 Denver. One of the more intriguing aspects of the season has been the play of attackman Chris Cloutier, who is currently riding a 25-game scoring streak, the second-longest active streak in the country and the fifth-longest such streak in UNC history. With two goals against Hopkins, he shows no sign of slowing down, and it will be fun to see how far he can extend it in his final season as a Tar Heel.
The women might not be undefeated, but they have had an opening to the season more in line with what you’d expect, with a double-overtime loss in a road opener against then-16th ranked James Madison before two dominant wins against High Point and Liberty. They made up for the opening loss, though, by beating the reigning champions and winners of 25 games in a row, Maryland, in a hard-fought game that saw both individual brilliance and great team play.
UNC had strong contributions from a couple of its first-year players, including Jamie Ortega leading all scorers with 6 points (4 goals, 2 assists) and Ally Mastroianni adding two goals and an assist. The Heels pretty much threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Terps, putting up 46 (!) shots to Maryland’s 29. With most other stats basically even between the two teams, it was UNC’s relentless offense that gave them the breakthrough they needed. UNC’s goalkeeper situation will be interesting to monitor, as starter Elise Hennessey was pulled from the game after allowing 7 goals in just over 12 minutes. Redshirt freshman Taylor Moreno came in and played the rest of the game and earned the win, allowing 8 goals in the next 48 1⁄2 minutes and making 7 saves. Here are highlights from the game:
Both teams have championship aspirations, just two years removed from winning NCAA titles in the same year, and have the talent to do it. Best of luck to both teams!