Maryland tops UNC in NCAA final rematch

The defending national-champion and 13th-ranked North Carolina men’s lacrosse team dropped its regular-season rematch against the 10th-ranked Maryland Terrapins by a 15-7 margin at Fetzer Field on Saturday.

Facing each other for the first time since last year’s NCAA championship final, the result flipped back to the Terps’ favor as they upended the Tar Heels with a strong opening quarter of play.

Though outshooting Maryland 32-27, and finishing with eight less turnovers than the Terps’ 18 total, North Carolina was unable to capitalize on its opportunities.

Instead, Maryland (5-2) took advantage of its chances, and built up a sizeable 6-2 lead heading into the second period

The Terps were led by identical two-goal, three assist finishes from Matt Rambo and Connor Kelly to go along with multiple-goal finishes from four others.

For North Carolina (5-4), Timmy Kelly scored two while singles from Luke Goldstock, Chris Cloutier, and three others – Andy Matthews, Jack Lambert, Tanner Cook - rounded out the Tar Heels’ offensive production.

Starting goalkeeper Brian Balkam was credited with the loss, and along with Jack Pezzulla, combined for four stops total.

Dan Morris’ 12 saves was a key factor in leading Maryland’s defense against a North Carolina attack that didn’t produce as dynamically as it’s used to.

“They’re a good team – they always have been – and play good year in and year out,” Kelly said. “They just played better than us today. We just didn’t execute as well as we wanted to.”

Trailing 9-3 at halftime, many would have expected the Tar Heels to respond, but hitting a scoreless stretch of 14 minutes didn’t see them cut into the Maryland lead until the 3:07 mark of the third quarter. Faced with a 13-4 margin, North Carolina managed to win the final period 3-2.

However, it didn’t come close to making up for earlier shortfalls.

“It was disappointing,” North Carolina head coach Joe Breschi said. “I thought we were well prepared. We just didn’t execute. All the credit goes to Maryland – they played hard, they out-ground- balled us, out-scrapped us between the lines. In a game like that, you can’t go down as quickly as we did in the first quarter. Our goalies didn’t get much help. I think defensively, we were not that sharp from that point on. We’ve gotta do a better job as a staff in preparing them.”

Even while losing their third game in their last four, Breschi and his team know that the remaining ACC schedule will require a better effort to put forward to prepare for another postseason run.

They understand what must be done.

“We can only work hard and figure out our problems,” Goldstock said. “We can’t freak out. We’ve got everything we want to accomplish in front of us. We have ACC regular season, ACC championship, and the national championship – it’s not like we’re out of it already. We’ve just gotta keep workin’ hard and figure it all out.”

Breschi concurred.

“The ACC (schedule) is a new season ahead of us," he said. “We’ve got the whole season sittin’ in front of you. We’ve been 5-4 before and with the ACC in front of us, we’ve got our work cut out for us. With the ACC, you’ve got everything sitting in front of you, but you don’t just flip the switch and you play. You’ve gotta go out there and compete. We’ve gotta compete harder in practice because everybody’s gunning for you.”