NORTH CAROLINA MEN'S LACROSSE SEASON OPENER
Friday, February 8, 2012
North Carolina (0-0) vs. Air Force (0-0)
Fetzer Field, 7 p.m.
Rankings: UNC Tied 4th USILA Coaches, 7th Nike/Inside Lacrosse Media; Air Force unranked
Head Coaches: North Carolina – Joe Breschi, UNC '90; Air Force – Eric Seremet, UNC '92
Series Record: North Carolina 9, Air Force 0
Last Meeting: North Carolina 8, Air Force 6 on February 25, 2006 at Denver Pioneer Classic, Peter Barton Stadium, Denver, Colo.
BRIEF SEASON PREVIEW: Coach Joe Breschi welcomes back his most experienced team during his Tar Heel coaching tenure in 2013 as Carolina pursues an ambitious docket of opponents in the coming campaign. Carolina, 11-6 in 2012, returns its top five scorers from last year and three of its four starters in close defense and the goal. Breschi enters his fifth season as the Tar Heel head coach with an all-time record of 46-21 at Carolina. His Tar Heels are ranked in a tie for fourth in the preseason in the USILA poll and seventh in the Nike Inside Lacrosse poll.
Carolina will play one of the most difficult schedules in the nation in 2013. Regular season games will be played against preseason Top 20 teams UMass (12), Fairfield (16), Notre Dame (3), Princeton (14), Duke (6), Maryland (2), Johns Hopkins (4), Virginia (7) and Hofstra (20).
Areas where the Tar Heels will need to replace some valuable personnel lost to graduation include the pole and short stick midfield spots as well as the second line of attack. Among the key players lost to graduation included four-year starter and All-America Charlie McComas at close defense, veteran long pole Mark Staines, who was named the most valuable defensive player on last year's squad, All-America midfielder Jimmy Dunster, short-stick middie veteran Tyler Morton and a pair of talented attackmen in Thomas Wood and Jack McBride.
Carolina will be unquestionably led by senior attackman Marcus Holman, the Tar Heels' sole elected captain, only the third time that has happened in UNC history since 1981. Holman was a second-team All-America last year when he compiled numbers wise one of the most remarkable seasons in Tar Heel lore. He scored 49 goals, passed for 45 assists and compiled 74 points. Honorable mention All-America Jimmy Bitter and sophomore classmate Joey Sankey round out a formidable attack unit for Carolina. That duo both notched 40 plus points as freshmen. Sankey was a mirror image of himself statistically with 22 scores and 22 helpers for 44 points overall and Bitter notched 27 tallies and 14 assists. The 27 goals for Bitter were the most by a UNC freshman since 1973. Freshman Patrick Kelly lines up as the fourth attackman on the depth chart heading into the season.
Carolina's top three midfield units will include a fine blend of experience and youth. Arguably the place where UNC's freshman class may make the most impact is the high calibre of offensive middies recruited by Coach Breschi. Veterans in the unit include sophomore Chad Tutton (20 goals, 6 assists in 2012), senior Davey Emala (15 goals, 7 assists), junior Pat Foster (5 goals, 8 assists), junior Will Campbell (4 goals, 3 assists), junior T.J. Kemp and sophomore Walker Chafee. Freshmen Steve Pontrello, Spencer Parks, Brent Armstrong and Jake Matthai are expected to be strong contributors as well and will compete for spots in the top two units. Carolina will miss the talents of junior Duncan Hutchins who is red-shirting in 2013 after undergoing back surgery.
Carolina's short stick defensive midfield unit is arguably the most experienced part of the team, going four deep. Coach Breschi has indicated he wants to play multiple players in that rotation. Senior William Scroggs and three juniors - All-America Ryan Creighton, Greg McBride and Mark McNeill - all factor into the equation there.
UNC's face-off duo of juniors R.G. Keenan and Frankie Kelly rivals any in the nation. Keenan was the first-team All-America face-off man on the USILA Team in 2012 as he won 205 of 340 draws and led the team in ground balls for the second successive year with 102.
Carolina will look for a combination of younger players to take up key roles at the rope position. Sophomore Ryan Kilpatrick shared duties at that spot with Mark Staines in 2012 and is the most experienced Tar Heel there. Fellow sophomore Matt Shannon will likely see time there along with a trio of freshmen in Zach Powers, Mark Rizzo and Brian Sherlock.
Coach Breschi heads into the season with a multitude of choices both in the close defense and the goalkeeping spots. Returning starters on close defense include senior Kieran McDonald and junior Jordan Smith. Sophomore Jake Bailey and freshman Evan Connell are also in the mix for starting spots and Powers can also see time down low as well as at the rope.
The Tar Heels have a plethora of options at the goalkeeper position as senior Steven Rastivo has started for the past year and a half between the pipes. Sophomore Andrew O'Connell and freshman Kieran Burke are also possibilities to see time here.
Beyond this core group of 25 players Carolina boasts more depth that at any time in recent memory. UNC's talented 45-man roster will be a boon to Carolina's Tournament chances in the coming season. Carolina's outstanding senior class includes Stephen Burns, Marcus Holman, Sean Taylor, Kieran McDonald, Steven Rastivo, William Scroggs, Stevie Kirkup and Davey Emala.