CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Joining the nation's strongest men's lacrosse league was going to lead to some memorable games and No. 11 Notre Dame made its first contest in the Atlantic Coast Conference unforgettable with a thrilling 11-10 come-from-behind victory at No. 2 North Carolina on Saturday afternoon at Fetzer Field.
Notre Dame (2-1, 1-0) trailed 8-3 early in the third quarter, yet responded with five unanswered goals to tie the game less than 30 seconds into the final period. The rally began on a goal from Matt Kavanagh, who had three goals and two assists in the contest. Midfielder Tyler Brenneman sliced the deficit to three (8-5) with his first goal of the season.
North Carolina (3-1, 0-1) was whistled for three non-releasable penalties at the 1:45 mark of the third quarter and the Fighting Irish played two-men up for 1 minute and took advantage with goals from midfielders Sergio Perkovic and Jim Marlatt. Kavanagh completed his hat trick to make it 8-8. He has nine goals and eight assists this season.
Following a Tar Heel score from Jimmy Bitter, Notre Dame attackman Conor Doyle drilled a low-angle shot to make it 9-9 with 11:04 remaining. The Fighting Irish grabbed their first lead of the day (10-9) with a little more than 6 minutes left in regulation on a Jack Near goal. Another man-up score from the freshman Perkovic pushed the Irish lead to two with 4:14 left. Bitter put North Carolina back to within one 23 seconds later, but that was the final goal of the game.
"The message at halftime was to stay the course and not panic," Notre Dame head coach Kevin Corrigan said. "I didn't feel that we were playing badly, we just weren't finishing our chances."
The Tar Heels led 4-0 by the 6:06 mark of the first quarter and Notre Dame starting goalie Conor Kelly was replaced by freshman Shane Doss at that time. Doss played the remainder of the game and made 10 saves. Arguably his biggest stop of the day came about the 9 minute mark of the fourth quarter when he negated a point-blank shot from Pat Foster to keep the game tied 9-9.
Midfielder Trevor Brosco put the Irish on the board with 5:30 remaining in the opening period, but the Tar Heels led 5-1 at the end of the quarter. A man-up goal from John Scioscia cut the Tar Heel lead to three (5-2), but consecutive tallies from Foster and Shane Simpson put the hosts up by five. Kavanagh found the back of the net for the first time with a little more than 3 minutes left in the first half and the Irish trailed 7-3 at the intermission.
Notre Dame's Liam O'Connor excelled in the face-off game, winning 16 of his 23 attempts. The Irish also capitalized on most of their man-up opportunities as they went 4-for-7. The Fighting Irish outshot the Tar Heels 39-29 and North Carolina goalie Kieran Burke made 10 saves.