SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Captain Billy Ward scored with 2:57 left in the second overtime to lift No. 7 Syracuse (8-3, 2-3 ACC) to an 11-10 victory against No. 4 North Carolina (9-3, 2-3 ACC) on Saturday night, ending the first regular-season meeting since 1994 between the two lacrosse giants in thrilling fashion.
Ward's game-winner was the first of his career and it came on a feed from Randy Staats. Following a Syracuse timeout, Staats curled around the cage and spotted Ward on the left wing. Ward collected the pass, set his feet and fired from 10 yards out past UNC goalie Kieran Burke to clinch an ACC Championship berth for the Orange.
"I saw Randy had the ball and I know he loves going up the right side and he started doing that," said Ward. "The way they had been sliding all day was when the attackers were coming up they would slide down from us (midfielders). I saw my guy go and I knew Randy would find me. He did and I let it fly."
Ward tied his career highs in points (4) and goals (3) against the Tar Heels. Kevin Rice led Syracuse with six points on three goals and three assists. Nicky Galasso, who transferred to SU from North Carolina, and Dylan Donahue both chipped in two goals.
The Orange rallied from three goals down three times (3-0, 4-1, 6-3) in the contest and outscored the Tar Heels 8-4 after halftime.
UNC claimed the early lead, scoring on its first three shots of the game, and the Tar Heels held a 4-1 advantage with 5:52 left in the first quarter. Two consecutive Ward goals at the end of the period trimmed the UNC margin to 4-3 heading into the second frame.
UNC's Chad Tutton and Billy Bitter tallied the only goals in the second quarter to extend the Tar Heel lead to 6-3 at the half.
In the third quarter, Donahue snapped the Orange drought with an unassisted goal 15 seconds into the second half. Rice scored just over a minute later to spark a 3-1 SU run that tied the game at 7-7.
Bitter opening the fourth-quarter scoring at the 11:59 mark to put the Tar Heels back up one, 8-7. However two straight Orange goals, including a low laser by Galasso with 7:47 left, gave the Orange its first lead of the night. The advantage was short-lived as Carolina responded with back-to-back goals by Tutton and Bitter to retake a one-goal margin, 10-9, with 3:10 to play.
The Tar Heels maintained the lead down the stretch until a 30-second clock violation gave the Orange possession with 31 ticks left on the clock. After a series of timeouts, Rice capitalized in the miscue, scoring unassisted with 8.4 seconds left to force overtime.
The Orange would have won the game in the first extra session if it wasn't for Burke. The sophomore netminder made clutch saves on point-blank shots by Scott Loy, Donahue and Rice to extend the game.
Senior faceoff specialist Chris Daddio won the draw at the start of the second overtime period, his 18th faceoff win of the game, to give Syracuse the ball and Ward rewarded his classmate by tallying the game's final goal.
"I thought it was a great game for college lacrosse today," said Syracuse head coach John Desko. "The overtimes, the back-and-forth, the goalie saves. My hat is off to North Carolina. This is a tough place to play (Carrier Dome) and they did a great job."
Bitter led the Tar Heels with a game-high four goals. Tutton had three. Burke finished with 14 saves, including seven in the second half and overtime.
Goalie Bobby Wardwell earned the win for Syracuse. Wardwell replaced starter Dominic Lamolinara at halftime and made five saves, while allowing four goals in 35:03. Lamolinara totaled six saves in first 30 minutes.
Daddio turned a sensational performance at the X, winning 18-of-26 faceoffs and picking up 10 ground balls. He was even better in the second half and overtime, going 12-for-15.