CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Sixth-ranked North Carolina's efficient offense, combined with an outstanding defensive effort, led the Tar Heels to an 11-8 victory over top-ranked Maryland in men's lacrosse action Saturday afternoon at Kenan Stadium before a crowd of 6,135.
This marked the second straight year UNC has knocked the Terps when they were the No. 1 team in the nation. A year ago, Carolina beat the Terps at Byrd Stadium 10-8 on March 23, 2013. It also marked the third successive year Carolina has beaten a #1 team (it also beat Johns Hopkins in 2012) after having not knocked one off since 1996.
North Carolina ran its offense well, scoring 11 times on 31 shots and committing only 10 turnovers. UNC also benefitted from a perfect 16 for 16 in the clearing game and the Tar Heels scored twice on three EMO chances.
Both teams exhibited balanced offensive attacks. Pat Foster and Joey Sankey each had two goals and two assists for UNC and Shane Simpson had two goals and a helper. Chad Tutton, Jimmy Bitter, Spencer Parks, Jake Bailey and Walker Chafee also scored for UNC. An extra-man goal by Chafee with 3:40 to play in the second quarter put Carolina ahead for good at 5-4. Maryland crept within one goal three times in the second half but could never get an equalizer.
Connor Cannizzaro led the Terps with two goals an assist while Colin Heacock scored twice for Maryland. Mike Chanenchuk had a goal and an assist for the Terps.
Maryland's Charlie Raffa dominated the face-off circle for the Terps, winning 16 of 23 draws and that helped Maryland seize a 35-26 edge in ground balls. But UNC's defense was a key factor in Maryland committing 16 turnovers, 10 of them forced, and the Terps hurt themselves with an 0-for-4 performance on the extra-man. The Terps had come into the game at 50 percent on the extra-man for the season but Carolina's man-down unit play proved to be a key to the game.
Maryland fell to 7-1 overall with the loss and the Terps are 2-1 in the ACC heading into a home game against Virginia in eight days. Carolina improved to 7-2 overall and 1-2 in the ACC and will next be in action at Johns Hopkins next Saturday.
Maryland's offense had scored in double figures in every game this season and came into the game averaging 13.14 goals per game. Carolina goalkeeper Kieran Burke continued his outstanding play of the last two weeks as he made 12 saves and had three ground balls. Niko Amato went the whole way for Maryland in the cage, making eight saves.
Joey Sankey, Austin Pifani and Mark McNeill each had two caused turnovers for UNC while Pat Foster and Zach Powers each had four ground balls. Both players had career highs for ground balls. McNeill added three ground balls to the UNC total. Raffa led the Terrapins with eight ground balls while Amato had six and defenseman Michael Ehrhardt five.
Carolina opened the scoring when Joey Sankey scored in transition off a Pat Foster assist a little less than two minutes into the game. Maryland answered quickly with goals by Heacock and Cannizzaro before Foster and Tutton struck for back-to-back unassisted tallies to put the Heels up 3-2 at the end of the first quarter.
Sankey's goal ran his consecutive game streak with at least one point to 30 in a row and he has now scored goals in 27 of the past 30 matches. Tutton has scored at least one goal in 20 of the past 21 games and 33 of the past 35 contests.
Neither team found the back of the net in the opening half of the second quarter but Maryland put together back to back goals by Cannizzaro and Ehrhardt 12 seconds apart to seize a 4-3 lead with 7:12 left before intermission. That would be Maryland's last lead of the game.
Carolina ran off the last three goals of the half. Shane Simpson evened the game off a Sankey feed at 6:14. At 3:52, Maryland's Casey Ikeda was banished from the field for a minute for an illegal body check and UNC cashed in just 12 seconds later when Chafee scored his third extra-man goal in the last two games off an assist by Foster. UNC ran its lead to 6-4 at the half when Bitter's initial shot was saved by Amato but the ball bounced right to Spencer Parks who dunked it from two yards away.
Maryland outscored the Tar Heels 3-2 in the third quarter but never got the game tied. A goal by Chanenchuk just 45 seconds into the half was matched by Carolina's Foster less than two minutes later. Brian Cooper scored a fast break goal off an Amato assist at 9:18 but Simpson responded for UNC just 1:03 later. The final goal of the third quarter came at 3:20 as Cannizzaro fed Joe LoCascio.
Carolina stretched its lead to three at 10-7 with a pair of goals in the opening six minutes of the final stanza. Joey Sankey scored for the Heels in a timer-on situation off a feed by Simpson at 10:21 and then 50 seconds later Bitter dodged from the right side and beat Amato for a three-goal cushion. Bitter has now recorded a point in 35 straight games and scored goals in 30 of the past 32 outings.
Marylan's Heacock found himself alone on the crease for a back-handed putaway at 8:41 to pull the Terps within two. Less than a minute later, Tim Rotanz turned the ball over and Jake Bailey scooped up and went coast to coast to score with 7:45 to play. It was his second career goal.
Down the stretch Burke made saves at 4:21 on a shot by Cannizzaro and at 1:52 on a shot by Henry West to keep the Terps at bay. Carolina's offense then killed off all but 13 seconds of the final two minutes to close out the victory.
The Tar Heels have now beaten the Terps in five-straight regular-season meetings, a feat UNC has matched only one other time from 1990-94. Carolina also improved to 4-0 in games played at Kenan Stadium over the past two seasons.