Senior Jordan Smith enters his fourth year as a starter at close defense for UNC.
Senior Jordan Smith enters his fourth year as a starter at close defense for UNC.
View larger
No. 2 Tar Heels Open 2014 Campaign Sunday At Furman
Release: 02/06/2014


Game 1

#2/#3 North Carolina (0-0) at Furman (0-1)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

2 p.m.

Paladin Stadium

Greenville, S.C.

Live Video: Paladin HD

Live Stats:

Follow The Tar Heels On Twitter:  UNCTarHeelLax

2014 UNC Lacrosse Media Guide:  Yearbook

Buy Season Tickets:  GoHeels Ticket Center

The Coaches

North Carolina:  Joe Breschi, North Carolina '90; 6th year at UNC, 59-25;  17th year overall, 151-88

Furman:  Richie Meade, North Carolina '76;  1st year at Furman, 0-1;  22nd year overall, 162-121

Coming off its most successful season in 17 years, the North Carolina men's lacrosse team enters the 2014 campaign with 30 returning letter winners and seven returning starters on the roster.

Mentored by 2013 ACC Coach of the Year Joe Breschi, the Tar Heels were 13-4 a year ago while winning its first ACC Tournament championship since 1996.

The Tar Heels open up the 2014 season on Sunday when they travel to Greenville, S.C. to face the Furman Paladins at 2 p.m. at Paladin Stadium.  The Paladins are in their first year as an NCAA Division I men's lacrosse program.  They are coached by 1976 UNC alumnus and U.S. National Team coach Richie Meade.  Furman dropped its opener last Saturday at home to defending Patriot League champion Lehigh 13-6.  Sunday's game will be the season opener for the Tar Heels.

A QUICK LOOK BACK AT LAST YEAR:  A year ago, UNC struggled at the beginning of the season, splitting its first six games before catching fire and winning 10 games in a row en route to sharing the ACC regular-season championship and then winning the ACC Tournament crown with exhilarating wins over Duke 18-17 and Virginia 16-13.  The Tar Heels made their seventh straight NCAA Tournament appearance, beating Patriot League champion Lehigh 16-7 in the first round before suffering a heartbreaking 12-11 loss in the quarterfinals to Denver.

WHO'S MISSING?  Gone from last year's team are eight seniors.  Three of those players were in the regular rotation for the Tar Heels last year.  Marcus Holman was a Tewaaraton Trophy finalist, ACC Offensive Player of the Year and first-team All-America.  He finished as Carolina's all-time points leader with 213.  Holman led the Tar Heels in 2013 with 80 points on 37 goals and 43 assists.  Two other starters must also be replaced - midfielder Davey Emala and close defenseman Kieran McDonald.  Emala was UNC's fifth leading scorer last year with 27 points (21 goals, 6 assists).  He was at his best in the ACC Tournament and in Carolina's regular-season overtime win over Johns Hopkins.  McDonald had a spectacular senior year on defense, starting all 17 games and scoring his first career goal.  He led UNC with 27 caused turnovers and was second in ground balls with 66.

KUDOS TO MARCUS:  The Tar Heel lacrosse program received great news on Wednesday night when Marcus Holman was named to the U.S. National Team that will play this summer in the 2014 World Lacrosse Games in Denver, Colo.  Holman is one of 30 U.S. players named to the team and one of six attackmen chosen.  The U.S. National Team is being coached this year by Furman head mentor Richie Meade.

THE 2014 ATTACK:  The attack unit will be led by juniors Joey Sankey and Jimmy Bitter, both preseason All-America selections by Face-Off Yearbook.  Sankey had 56 points last year on 36 goals and 20 assists while Bitter had 52 points on 32 goals and 20 assists.  Both players missed UNC's preseason scrimmages against Denver and Loyola but are expected back in the Tar Heel lineup soon.  Sankey and Bitter are the first two players in UNC history to reach 50 goals in their careers by the end of their sophomore years. Senior Pat Foster (5 goals, 2 assists) and sophomore Spencer Parks (9 goals, 1 assist) both started on attack in the scrimmages for UNC and are expected to play attack this year after playing midfield a year ago.  Sophomore Patrick Kelly also returns in the attack unit after scoring six goals last year.  Freshman Luke Goldstock is also expected to see significant duty on attack.

A DEEP MIDFIELD:  Preseason first-team All-America Chad Tutton will lead a stacked offensive midfield.  The Canadian had 35 points last year on 28 goals and seven assists.  Tutton is expected to lead a four-man first midfield unit that includes sophomore Steve Pontrello (12 goals, 1 assist) as well as a pair of dynamic freshmen - Canadian Shane Simpson and redshirt Michael Tagliaferri from California.

The second four-man unit is expected to be equally deep and includes sophomore Brent Armstrong, senior T.J. Kemp (4 goals, 2 assists), sophomore Jake Matthai (4 goals, 2 assists, 10 ground balls) and standout freshmen Stephen Kelly.  There are several other returning letter winners who could see action here.

THE SHORT STICK DEFENSIVE MIDS:  Carolina is also very deep at the short-stick defensive midfield position, led by a trio of senior captains - Ryan Creighton, Greg McBride and Campbell Wood.  Creighton had 11 goals and three assists last year to go with 22 ground balls and nine caused turnovers.  Fifth-year senior McBride had two goals, eight assists, 17 ground balls and seven caused turnovers.  Other key players in the short stick defensive midfield return in the form of and senior Mark McNeill (2 goals, 1 assists, 20 ground balls) as well as Matthai and junior Drew Hays who has excelled in the preseason.

THE SHOT STOPPER:  Sophomore Kieran Burke returns in the goal for the Tar Heels after a spectacular freshman campaign in which he was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Week on three occasions.  The first freshman to start in goal for UNC since 2002, he had 199 saves and a .545 save percentage while posting a 12-4 goalkeeper record.  Top reserves for the Tar Heels will be true freshman Brian Balkam and redshirt freshman Duncan Saunders.

CLOSE DEFENSE:  Three Tar Heels are back who had starting experience a year ago.  Returning starters on close defense for UNC are senior Jordan Smith, the most improved player on last year's squad, sophomore Evan Connell (25 ground balls, 15 caused turnovers) and junior Jake Bailey who started six games on close defense last year and will be in contention for a starting spot this year. Freshman Austin Pifani is also getting a look at breaking into the starting lineup and sophomore Zach Powers is a much-improved presence.

THE POLES:  Leading returnees at long-stick defensive midfield are junior Ryan Kilpatrick (36 ground balls, 8 caused turnovers) and junior Matt Shannon (22 ground balls, 10 caused turnovers).  Freshman Jack Lambert is also in the mix for playing time behind those two veterans.

TAR HEELS AT THE X:  The entire face-off corps also returns led by senior R.G. Keenan, a first-team All-America in 2012.  Last year Keenan won 198 of 374 face-offs and led the Tar Heels in ground balls with 111.  He had five goals and three assists and scored the game-winner in overtime against Johns Hopkins and tallied twice in the ACC Tournament championship game win over Virginia.  Senior Frankie Kelly and sophomore Brent Armstrong also return as key elements of the face-off game and freshman Stephen Kelly, Frankie's younger brother, comes out of the high school ranks as the top face-off man in the Class of 2013.

THE FRESHMEN:  The Tar Heels are also expected to get contributions from a talented freshman class that was ranked No. 3 in the annual Inside Lacrosse Rankings.  Nine of the 10 true freshmen were ranked in the IL Top 100 recruits in the Class of 2013.  Five were Under Armour All-Americas.

THE POLLS:  UNC is ranked No. 2 in the preseason USILA coaches poll and No. 3 in the preseason media poll from Inside Lacrosse.

THE SCHEDULE:  Carolina was picked to finish in a tie for second place in the ACC preseason coaches' poll and was ranked third nationally heading into the season by Face-Off Yearbook.  The expanded ACC schedule will add games against Syracuse and Notre Dame to already existing rivalries against Maryland, Virginia and Duke.  The non-conference schedule is headed up by games against traditional powers Princeton, Johns Hopkins, Harvard and Bucknell.  The Tar Heels will open with matches at Furman and at home against Manhattan.  Those are both first-time opponents on UNC's ledger.


2014 Face-Off Yearbook Preseason All-Americas


Chad Tutton, Junior Midfielder


Joey Sankey, Junior Attackman


Ryan Creighton, Senior Midfielder

Honorable Mention

Jimmy Bitter, Junior Attackman

Kieran Burke, Sophomore Goalkeeper

Evan Connell, Sophomore Defenseman

2014 Coaches Preseason All-ACC Team

Joey Sankey, Junior Attackman

Chad Tutton, Junior Midfielder

Ryan Creighton, Senior Short-Stick Midfielder

2013 Individual Honors


Marcus Holman, Attackman

Joey Sankey, Attackman

ACC Offensive Player of the Year

Marcus Holman, Attackman

ACC Coach of the Year

Joe Breschi

ACC Tournament MVP

Marcus Holman, Attackman

All-ACC Tournament

Kieran Burke, Goalkeeper

Davey Emala, Midfielder

Marcus Holman, Attackman

R.G. Keenan, Midfielder

Chad Tutton, Midfielder

USILA All-Americas

Marcus Holman, 1st Team, Attackman

Chad Tutton, 2nd Team, Midfielder

Joey Sankey, 3rd Team, Attackman

Jimmy Bitter, Honorable Mention, Attackman

Ryan Creighton, Honorable Mention, Midfielder

All-ACC Academic

Jake Bailey, Sophomore, Defenseman

Jimmy Bitter, Sophomore, Attackman

Frankie Kelly, Junior, Midfielder

Jake Matthai, Freshman, Midfielder

Kieran McDonald, Senior, Defenseman

Zach Powers, Freshman, Defenseman

Joey Sankey, Sophomore, Attackman

Matt Shannon, Sophomore, Defenseman

UNC North Carolina Men's Lacrosse

NCEMC Touchstone Ad 2016