CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA. - Led by a 23-save performance by freshman goalkeeper Kieran Burke, the sixth-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels defeated the No. 19 Virginia Cavaliers 10-7 in men's lacrosse action Saturday afternoon before 6,787 fans at Klockner Stadium.
Carolina was outshot in the game 51-32 but Burke carried the Tar Heels the entire game, making the most saves in a game by a UNC goalkeeper since Paul Spellman had 25 stops in a 10-6 victory over Maryland on March 22, 2003. Burke's 23 saves are also the fourth highest total by an NCAA Division I goalkeeper in a game this year.
With the victory, UNC wins its fifth match in a row, its longest winning streak since starting the 2010 campaign with 10 consecutive wins. The Tar Heels are now 8-3 overall and they finish 2-1 in the ACC, earning no less than a tie for first place in the regular-season standings. The Cavaliers are now 5-6 overall and 0-2 in the ACC. The Cavaliers and Duke play next Friday in Durham, N.C., and that result will determine final ACC Tournament seedings. UNC will host the ACC Tournament at Kenan Stadium on April 26 and 28.
It was Carolina's first regular-season win over the Cavaliers since April 23, 2004 when the Tar Heels won 11-9 at Fetzer Field. It was UNC's first regular-season win at Klockner Stadium since April 7, 2001 when Carolina beat the Wahoos 7-5. That Carolina win was powered by a 22-save performance by goalkeeper Kris Blindenbacher. The Tar Heels have now won two in a row against the Wahoos, also beating them in last year's ACC Tournament semifinals at Klockner Stadium by an 11-9 margin. Prior to that win last season, Virginia had beaten Carolina nine straight times.
Marcus Holman led the Tar Heels offensively as he had six points on three goals and three assists. Sophomores Jimmy Bitter and Chad Tutton each had two goals and an assist for UNC while Joey Sankey had two goals. Davey Emala also scored for UNC and Matt Shannon added an assist, his second career point.
Holman ran his goal scoring string to 26 games in a row, the fifth longest streak in NCAA Division I. Joey Sankey's two goals give him 50 for his career while Bitter ran his career goal total to 48. Sankey is the 49th player to reach the 50-goal career mark with Bitter soon to follow.
Holman now has 111 goals in his career, moving him into a tie for third place on Carolina's all-time goal scoring chart with Mac Ford (1982-85). He passed both Dennis Goldstein (1987-91) and John Webster (1990-93) on the UNC career charts Saturday. He needs two more goals to tie Jed Prossner (2002-05) for second place in career goal scoring as a Tar Heel. Holman now has 186 career points, the sixth most in UNC history, and his 75 assists are the ninth most in Tar Heel history.
Statistically, the game was heavily titled in Virginia's direction, making UNC's three-goal margin of victory all the more amazing. Virginia outshot the Tar Heels 51-32 and won the ground ball battle 41-21. The Cavaliers also won 15 of 20 face-offs. The Wahoos were perfect on the clear (20-for-20) and converted two extra-man goals to zero for Carolina. UNC committed 12 turnovers and Virginia had 10 turnovers.
But in the end, the game came down to Kieran Burke, who made his 11th successive start in goal. His 23 saves were eight more than his previous career highs of 15 against Notre Dame and Maryland.
The Cavaliers were led by Mark Cockerton who had three goals on 18 shots. Nick O'Reilly had two goals for the Cavaliers, both in the first quarter, to go along with an assist. Matt White had a pair of assists for UVA.
The Tar Heels got off to a fast start as they ran off four goals in less than 10 minutes in the first quarter, building a lead they would never relinquish despite being under constant pressure on the defensive end for most of the game. Joey Sankey opened the scoring with a timer on goal at 13:27 of the first quarter as he came around the cage to finish past Virginia goalkeeper Rhody Heller. Just over two minutes later, Carolina doubled its lead as Marcus Holman scored his first of three first half goals. Sophomore long stick midfielder Matt Shannon fed Holman for a fast break goal at 11:11, finishing off a successful clear after a Burke save on a shot by Rob Emery. With 7:08 left in the quarter, Holman scored off an assist by Jimmy Bitter as the Tar Heels again scored quickly after a Burke save and successful clear. The Heels then made it 4-0 when Chad Tutton made a nifty dodge out top and bounced a shot past Rhody Heller with 5:16 left in the opening stanza.
The last five minutes of the first quarter belonged to UVA. Nick O'Reilly scored a pair of goals 34 seconds apart, rolling the crease from behind scoring low both times, once on the left side and then on the right side. The Cavaliers then scored a transition goal by Mark Cockerton with 11 seconds left in the quarter following a turnover by the Tar Heels.
Neither team scored in the first 11 minutes of the second quarter before Chad Tutton scored from the right side of the box from 10 yards out off an assist by Marcus Holman with 3:33 to play. Holman's skip pass from the left side found Tutton alone for a left-handed putaway. The Cavaliers matched that goal with an extra-man tally by Ryan Tucker, assisted by Nick O'Reilly, with 1:43 left in the half. After weathering another penalty, UNC got the ball back, called timeout with 48 seconds and then scored the last goal of the first half with 2.3 seconds left. Chad Tutton fed Marcus Holman from the right side and Holman found himself unmarked on the crease. He caught the pass, pivoted and scored in the closing seconds of the half. Earlier in the period, Holman had a similar opportunity but his behind-the-back shot found the pipe. This time, Holman's finish was true, finishing his 15th career hat trick.
The Tar Heels were outshot 26-16 after halftime but Burke made 14 of his 23 saves after intermission, including seven saves in the third quarter and seven saves in the fourth quarter. Virginia would score on only three of its 17 shots on goal in the final 30 minutes.
After leading 6-4 at halftime, the Tar Heels scored the opening two goals of the third period to get its four-goal lead back. Senior midfielder Davey Emala scored on an outside wormburner at 13:38 to make it 7-4, finishing low past Heller from 12 yards. Neither team scored for another nine minutes before Jimmy Bitter scored on a fast break from Holman at 4:38 of the period to restore a four-goal lead for Carolina. UNC's transition goals would make the difference for the second game in a row just as they had the previous Saturday against Johns Hopkins. The Cavaliers answered with an extra-man goal with 3:13 left in the third quarter with Rob Emery scoring from Matt White after Davey Emala was sent off for holding.
Neither team could dent the scoreboard in the opening 10 minutes of the fourth quarter before Cockerton scored off White's assist with 4:56 to play to cut UNC's lead to two goals. Virginia had several more opportunities to cut the lead to a single goal but Burke repeatedly frustrated the Cavaliers, allowing Carolina emerge with the win. The Cavs won the face-off after Cockerton's goal but Burke saved shots by Nick O'Reilly at 4:07 and by Cockerton at 2:36. After a timeout by Carolina, Virginia's Matt White turned the ball over with 2:05 to play and the Tar Heels took advantage to notch the game-clinching tally just 23 seconds later. Joey Sankey scored an empty net goal with 1:42 left off Holman's third assist of the game. Holman's cross field pass finished off the clear for UNC and Sankey eluded two defenders to score. After another turnover by the Wahoos, Mark McNeill cleared the ball for UNC and with 45 seconds left, Jimmy Bitter notched his second goal of the match to put Carolina up 10-6, equaling its biggest lead of the game. Cocketon finished off his hat trick 15 seconds later but Burke finished off the afternoon with his 23rd and final save on a shot by James Pannell with 10 seconds to play.
The Tar Heels will be back action next Saturday when they travel to Long Island to meet the Hofstra Pride (7-4) at 7 p.m. at James M. Shuart in Hempstead, N.Y. The Pride is coming off a dominating 13-1 win at St. Joseph's on Saturday night.