March 28, 2009

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Sean Delaney took a pass from Billy Bitter and rifled a low shot past Michael Gvozden with 1:31 left in the first overtime period as the No. 12-ranked North Carolina men's lacrosse team upset No. 6-ranked Johns Hopkins to give Carolina head coach Joe Breschi his 100th career coaching victory. The game was played before UNC's largest home crowd in seven years despite a driving rainstorm that made the field a slippery adventure with every possession and it marked the Tar Heels' first victory in an overtime game since March 20, 2004.

After Johns Hopkins won the opening face-off in overtime on a ground ball pickup by Brian Christopher, the Blue Jays took a timeout with 3:39 to play. Hopkins was not able to get a shot off and the Tar Heels forced a turnover with 2:21 left in period as Mark Staines stripped Christopher of the ball and Chris Hunt claimed the ground ball and successfully executed the clear for the Heels on his own. UNC called a timeout with 2:07 left in the period to organize its offense. Ben Hunt started the sequence and fed the ball to Delaney who slipped to the turf but was able to keep possession. Delaney fed Jimmy Dunster behind the cage who then passed off to Bitter. Bitter spun to his left and fed the ball to Delaney who was along 10 yards in front of the cage. The junior midfielder rocketed his low shot into the right side cleanly past Gvodzen to provide the winning margin.

Breschi, who came to Chapel Hill last June after 11 seasons as the head coach at Ohio State, saw his career record improve to 100-66 with the triumph over the Blue Jays. UNC has now upset higher-ranked Johns Hopkins' teams three years in a row after losing to the Blue Jays 13 time in a row before that. The game was played before a crowd of 4,535 fans, the largest home crowd for a UNC game since 6,235 fans watched the Tar Heels beat UMBC 15-11 on April 13, 2002 at Kenan Stadium as part of a spring football game/men's lacrosse game doubleheader.

Ironically, UNC was only 1-6 in its last seven overtime games dating back to 2003 before emerging with the win on Saturday. The overtime win was the first in extra time since the Tar Heels beat Duke 10-9 on an overtime goal by Lance Zimmerman at Koskinen Stadium in Durham, N.C. on March 20, 2004.

Carolina is now 2-1 in one-goal games in 2009 after having lost seven of its last eight one-goal games heading into this season.

The Tar Heels had four different players score two goals with Billy Bitter, Gavin Petracca, Sean Delaney and Bart Wagner each tallying twice. Bitter and Petracca each had a pair of assists as well for four-point games. Delaney also added an assist for a three-point game while Sean Burke added a goal and an assist.

Bitter and defensemen Ryan Flanagan and Charlie McComas led the Tar Heels with five ground balls each while Chris Hunt had four. McComas and Michael Burns each had three caused turnovers to lead the Heels' defensive efforts.

Nine different players scored the nine goals for the Blue Jays. Mark Bryan led Hopkins with a goal and three assists while Michael Kimmel had a goal and two assists.

Carolina improved to 8-3, equaling its win total from the entire 2008 season when UNC finished 8-6. This is the first Carolina team to have eight wins before the end of March since 1993.

The Blue Jays, who have now lost successive games to No. 2 Syracuse, No. 1 Virginia and the Tar Heels, fell to 3-4.

Statistically, the Tar Heels outshot the Blue Jays 45-28, including a lopsided 17-2 total in the second quarter. UNC also won the ground ball battle for the 11th straight game this season, earning 42 to 30 for the Blue Jays. UNC won one more face-off, 12 to 11, and the Blue Jays had two more saves, 10 to 8. Both teams were excellent in the clearing game as the Jays cleared successfully 20 of 23 times and the Heels were successful 16 of 17 times. UNC cleared successfully on every attempt in the game except for its first try that failed 21 seconds into the game. Hopkins committed 20 turnovers and UNC 15.

Both teams had trouble hanging on to the ball in the first quarter as the Blue Jays committed eight turnovers and the Tar Heels had five. Grant Zimmerman had four of his eight saves in the first quarter to keep the Blue Jays off the scoreboard. The Tar Heels scored the only goal of the first quarter as Bart Wagner snuck one behind Gvozden off an assist by Delaney with 1:41 left in the period after Zimmerman picked off a pass by Chris Boland on the other end of the field 23 seconds earlier.

Hopkins would take its only lead of the game in the opening two minutes of the second quarter, tallying twice in a span of only 14 seconds. In fact, the two goals came on the only two shots Hopkins was able to take in the second period of play. Michael Kimmel got the equalizer for the Blue Jays at the 13:15 mark and after Matt Dolente won the ensuing face-off, he scored just 14 seconds later off a feed by long pole Matt Drenan.

The Tar Heels shut down the Blue Jays for the remainder of the first half and scored three goals of their own to take a 4-2 lead into intermission. The Heels tied the game at 6:54 on a goal by Sean Burke after Bobby McAuley saved a pass by Burke from going out of bounds just seconds earlier. After claiming the ground ball, McAuley gave the ball back to Burke who drove the left sideline from 20 yards out to behind the goal. Burke juked his defender on the crease, faked his initial shot and then dropped his shot into the lower right of the cage for a 2-2 tie. The Tar Heels took a 3-2 lead just over a minute later when Billy Bitter scored on a diving shot after rolling the right side of the crease and finishing into the upper corner at 5:40. The last goal of the half came after Sean Burke caused a turnover by Michael Kimmel, allowing Billy Bitter to claim a ground ball just inside the halfway line. Bitter drove all the way to the circle with an opportunity to shoot on his own, but instead fed Petracca 15 yards out. The redshirt junior from Manhasset, N.Y. sent his shot past Gvozden and the Heels took a 4-2 lead.

The Heels added to their lead early in the third quarter. The advantage went to 5-2 at 13:17 as Ben Hunt's feed from the top of the circle to Delaney on the left side results in a shot by the junior attackman that goes into the lower right corner. Just 10 seconds later, UNC assumed its biggest lead of the game at 6-2 as Chris Hunt claimed the ground ball off a Shane Walterhoefer face-off win and fed Petracca for the attackman's second goal of the game. It was the first career assist for Hunt, a sophomore short-stick defensive midfielder.

Johns Hopkins was hardly going to go away, however. The next three goals went to the Blue Jay side as Austin Walker scored off an assist by Steven Boyle at 10:20, Marshall Burkhart scored off a feed by Tom Palasek at 7:09 and Brian Christopher tallied off an assist by Michael Kimmel at 5:13 to make it only 6-5 Tar Heels in bang-bang-bang fashion.

The Tar Heels were able to restore a two-goal cushion with 2:57 left in the period. Sean Burke crossed behind the cage with the ball and fed Cryder DiPietro 15 yards out up top. DiPietro caught and shot in virtually the same motion and his rocket found the right side of the net to make it 7-5.

The next two tallies went to the Blue Jays and they tied it up for the first time since the 6:54 mark of the second quarter. Mark Bryan assisted a goal by Steven Boyle at 13:49 of the fourth quarter and then Michael Kimmel assisted on a goal by Mark Bryan at 8:38 to tie the game at 7-7.

The Tar Heels regained the momentum and took the lead at 6:40 on Billy Bitter's second goal of the game, assisted by Petracca. Twenty-five seconds later Carolina scored again as Mark Staines took the ball away from Matt Dolente after Hopkins had won the face-off. Staines passed ahead to Petracca who whipped another pass to Wagner who finished the fast break opportunity for a 9-7 lead.

It took just 59 seconds for the Blue Jays to pull back within a single tally as Chris Boland scored off an assist by Mark Bryan at 5:16. The Heels had several good looks at the goal in the next three minutes, peppering four shots at Gvozden before committing a turnover with two minutes to play. Hopkins came down and got the tying goal off the stick of Josh Peck, off Bryan's third assist of the game with 1:01 to play.

UNC had the last shot of regulation with Delaney missing wide with four seconds to play. But the junior would atone for that miss just a few minutes later as Carolina recorded a win over its high-ranked opponents since beating Cornell and Notre Dame when they were ranked fifth on March 2 and March 8 of last season.

Next up for the Tar Heels is undefeated and No. 1-ranked Virginia in the Big City Classic at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. next Saturday at 12 noon. The game will be nationally televised by ESPNU.

Saturday's game marked the final home game for the 11 players in UNC's Class of 2009. They finished their senior year with a home record of 7-1.