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Carolina Tar Heels capture first ACC Lacrosse Championship since 1996

Posted Sunday, April 28, 2013

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Chapel Hill, NC - North Carolina’s long wait ended Sunday afternoon at Kenan Stadium.

Packing a lethal offensive punch for the second straight tournament game and holding at least a two-goal lead throughout the final 32 minutes, the second-seeded Tar Heels turned back fourth-seeded Virginia, 16-13, in the title game of the Atlantic Coast Conference Men’s Lacrosse Championship.

A crowd of 4,001 saw the Tar Heels (12-3) claim their 12th ACC title overall and their eighth since the league began determining its champion via a tournament format in 1989. But North Carolina’s last ACC championship prior to Sunday had come in 1996.

“We’ve had five years of working hard, recruiting and trying to bring in the best people,” said Joe Breschi, the Tar Heels’ head coach since 2009. “You hear (our players) talking about being together and how tight they are. They believe in each other and they continue to battle for one another, and that’s what makes them great.”

North Carolina, which enhanced its chances of receiving the No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament, weathered a determined effort by the Cavaliers (7-8), who needed a victory on Sunday to earn NCAA eligibility. Matt White hammered home an ACC Championship single-game record-tying seven goals – including five in the second half – and Nick O’Reilly set the Championship single-game record for assists with seven.

But the Tar Heels, who set an ACC Championship scoring record with 34 goals in two games, remained a step ahead most of the way.

Championship MVP Marcus Holman assisted on five goals Sunday en route to becoming the program’s all-time leading scorer (207 points). Davey Emala scored a team-high four goals, and Chad Tutton added three.

Defensively, freshman goalkeeper Kieran Burke helped assure North Carolina of its ninth straight victory with 17 saves, 12 of which came in the second half.

“We really played about as well as we can play this weekend,” Breschi said. “This is a confident bunch. I heard Marcus talking (to reporters) about always being the underdog, and we kind of like that. We’ve been underdogs since I arrived, for sure. But we don’t listen to any of that.”

The first half began in a steady light rain and ended with North Carolina in front by a 10-7 score.

Holman became the Tar Heels’ all-time leading scorer when he assisted on back-to-back by goals by Emala in the closing minutes of the second period. Holman’s second connection with Emala gave him 205 career points, surpassing the previous school record of 204 set by Bruce Ledwith (1970-73).

O’Reilly handed out four assists in the first quarter alone and added a second-period goal to end the first half with five points. Emala’s hat trick and one assist paced North Carolina’s scoring in the opening period.

Two nights after North Carolina and Duke set an ACC Championship record with a combined 35 goals in the semifinal round, the Tar Heels and Cavaliers displayed similar scoring prowess in the opening minutes Sunday. The teams combined for four goals in the first 3:01 of the game, and the score was knotted 3-3 at the 8:48 mark of the first quarter before the floodgates somewhat closed.

The Tar Heels controlled 13 of 19 first-half faceoffs and ended up with an 18-14 edge for the game. North Carolina also led in ground balls, 41-37.

“I think Carolina has evolved defensively,” Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. “The kid in the cage (Burke) had kind of solidified that position for them. I thought we really had a shot at it when we closed it to two goals there late in the third quarter, early in the fourth. But Carolina was just a little slicker in the unsettled game, converted more easily, and came out on top.”

Holman was joined on the All-Tournament team by Tar Heel teammates Emala, Tutton, Burke and R.G. Keenan. White, O’Relly, Mark Cockerton and Harry Prevas represented Virginia on the squad, and Jordan Wolf and Brendan Fowler were named from Duke.

In addition to Sunday’s single-game goals record, White set an ACC Championship record for total goals scored (10) and total points (13). O’Neill’s nine assists in two games were also a tournament record.

“It’s going to be strange tomorrow to wake up and not be getting ready for practice,” said Starsia, whose team will miss out on the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004. “But that’s the way it is in this game. You just have to work harder to pick up the pieces. I am sure come tomorrow we’ll already have thoughts of 2014.”

2013 ACC All-Tournament Team

  • Brendan Fowler, Duke
  • Jordan Wolf, Duke
  • Kieran Burke, North Carolina
  • Davey Emala, North Carolina
  • Marcus Holman, North Carolina
  • RG Keenan, North Carolina
  • Chad Tutton, North Carolina
  • Mark Cockerton, Virginia
  • Nick O'Reilly, Virginia
  • Harry Prevas, Virginia
  • Matt White, Virginia
Carolina Tar Heels capture first ACC Lacrosse Championship since 1996
A crowd of 4,001 saw the Tar Heels (12-3) claim their 12th ACC lacrosse title.
photo by Gene Galin

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