N. Galasso

North Carolina Athletics

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Freshman Nicky Galasso scored four goals in his collegiate debut as third-ranked North Carolina defeated Robert Morris 14-11 in the season opener for both teams at Fetzer Field Saturday afternoon. Galasso led a stellar offensive effort by the Tar Heels that saw senior Billy Bitter and sophomore Marcus Holman score three goals each while freshman Mark McNeill scored twice, both of the goals in the fourth quarter of the game as the Tar Heels successfully rode out a rally by the Colonials.

Carolina appeared to dominate the game statistically but Robert Morris stuck around to the bitter end. It took goals by Galasso with 2:45 remaining and by McNeill with 1:08 left to give the Tar Heels their final cushion of three goals. UNC led 12-8 with 10:23 to play before the Colonials rallied with three scores of their own in a span of just over 6 minutes to pull within one goal with a little over 4 minutes to play, putting the pressure on the homestanding Heels.

After Kevin Brownell scored for the Colonials with 4:05 to play off an assist by Kiel Matisz, UNC's R.G. Keenan won the ensuing face-off. Less than a minute later, however, the Colonials' Ben Lewis forced a turnover by UNC's Mark McNeill and Robert Morris cleared the ball successfully and had a chance to shoot for a tying score. But UNC senior Ryan Flanagan then made the play of the game for the Tar Heels as he caused a turnover by Matisz with 2:51 left, earned the ground ball and led a fast break that resulted in Galasso's fourth goal of the game with 2:45 to play. On a dead run, Flanagan found Galasso alone on the crease for the putaway that gave the Tar Heels some separation.

Keenan, a freshman from Baltimore, who was 13 of 23 on face-offs for UNC and had a game-high eight ground balls, won the next draw, and after a UNC timeout called by head coach Joe Breschi, the Tar Heels got the clinching goal when McNeill started with the ball in his stick on the restart on the left side of the field. The Annapolis, Md., freshman circled completely around the box area from left to right and beat a slew of double team efforts to score into an empty net with just 1:08 left in the game.
UNC outshot the Colonials 43-31 and had a 36-22 edge in ground balls. UNC also won 14 face-off attempts to 11 for RMU. Chris Madalon went the entire way in goal for UNC and made 11 saves in 60 minutes while Charles Ruppert made 10 saves in 58:34 of action for the Colonials, allowing 13 of the 14 UNC goals. Brian Bohn played the final 1:26 for Robert Morris and allowed one goal.

Madalon made nine of his 11 saves in the first half as the Tar Heels built a 9-6 halftime edge. He also had two key fourth quarter saves as the Tar Heels held off the Colonials. Besides Keenan's eight ground balls for UNC, Flanagan and Bitter had four grounders apiece. Casey Abbott led RMU with four ground balls.

Both teams were effective in the clearing game as UNC was successful on 12 of 13 tries and Robert Morris made good on 14 of 15. The game was relatively turnover free with UNC committing only 11 and Robert Morris eight.

Galasso finished with five points for UNC as he had four goals and an assist. Bitter had three goals and an assist and Holman added three goals. McNeill added two goals and an assist while junior Thomas Wood had a goal and three assists and Jimmy Dunster also added a goal.

Patrick Smith and Trevor Moore led the offensive effort by Robert Morris as each scored three goals. Kevin Brownell had two goals and an assist for RMU, while both Taylor Caparosa and Kiel Matisz had a goal and an assist for the Colonials and Kyle Buchanan added two assists.

The Tar Heels opened the scoring 53 seconds into the match as Galasso, the highly touted freshman from West Islip, N.Y., buried his first career shot into the back of the net. He would go on to score on his first three shots of the game.

After Patrick Smith tied the game for the Colonials, UNC fought back with three straight goals. Billy Bitter scored an unassisted goal on a nifty dodge in front of the cage with 12 minutes left in the quarter. Nicky Galasso followed Bitter into the scoring column, assisted by Thomas Wood, at 8:03, and then by an unassisted goal by Marcus Holman with 5:05 left in the quarter made it 4-1 Carolina. Casey Abbott finished out the first quarter scoring for RMU and UNC ended the period with a 4-2 edge.

Carolina scored its only man-up goal of the game 21 seconds into the second quarter to give UNC a 5-2 lead with Galasso taking a pass from Wood for the tally. Robert Morris retaliated with back-to-back unassisted goals. First, Kevin Brownell scored on a hidden ball trick and then Kiel Matisz scored 59 seconds later to cut the Tar Heels' lead to 5-4 with 10:46 left in the half.

After neither team scored for more than four minutes, the two teams went on a pair of scoring runs in the final 6:36 of the half that led to a 9-6 Tar Heel advantage at intermission. UNC regained a two-goal cushion at 6:36 as Bitter scored off an assist by Galasso. Robert Morris responded with back-to-back goals by Taylor Caparosa at 6:08 and Patrick Smith, assisted by Caparosa, at 4:56, to forge the second tie score of the game at 6-6. UNC's Thomas Wood would then give the Tar Heels the lead for good in the game with 3:48 to play in the half off an assist by Mark McNeill. Keenan won the next face-off and just seven seconds later the Tar Heels scored again as Holman found the twine off an assist by Wood, making it 8-6 Tar Heels.

A key play in the game came after Thomas Wood was whistled for tripping with 1:04 left. Robert Morris had two shots on the extra-man possession as the half was closing but Madalon saved the second attempt, a shot by Dave Morton, with 17 seconds left before the halftime whistle. UNC pushed the ball up the field quickly on a clear and Michael Burns' shot went wide with two seconds to play. Bitter had the ball in his stick for a quick restart on the end line and he found Holman all alone on the crease for a dunk shot just before the horn blew to end the half.

The game calmed down on the offensive end in the third quarter with Robert Morris outscoring the Tar Heels 2-1. Patrick Smith scored a man-up goal for the Colonials with 12:03 left in the quarter but Bitter countered that RMU goal, with an unassisted tally of his own, at 7:26 of the period. The Colonials had the last score of the third quarter as Trevor Moore scored his first of three goals off an assist by Kyle Buchanan with 2:06 to play.

UNC attained its biggest advantage of the game by scoring the first two goals of the fourth quarter. Mark McNeill scored unassisted on a hard outside shot with 14:07 left and Jimmy Dunster drove the left alley to score with 10:23 to play to make it 12-8 in favor of Carolina. But Robert Morris refused to wilt and two goals by Moore, at 10:14 and at 5:42, the latter a man-up tally, made it 12-10. Kevin Brownell scored off an assist by Kiel Matisz with 4:05 to play but RMU got no closer after that as Flanagan, Galasso, Keenan and McNeill made the big plays down the stretch to keep the Tar Heels in front.