CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Before the largest crowd at Fetzer Field in 32 years, the fourth-ranked North Carolina men’s lacrosse team rallied past sixth-ranked Duke to post a 15-14 triumph in a wild back-and-forth game.
Chad Tutton, Jimmy Bitter and Joey Sankey all had hat tricks for Carolina to overcome a five-goal performance by Duke’s Deemer Class. UNC trailed by four goals in the first half before rallying in the third quarter to take a 10-8 lead. Duke then scored three times in the final 3:29 of the third period to regain the lead heading into the fourth quarter.
But Carolina persevered and a 5-1 scoring run to start the fourth quarter was just enough for Carolina to weather a late Duke rally as UNC beat the Blue Devils at Fetzer Field for the first time since March 19, 2003. A crowd of 5,711 packed the historic edifice to capacity, the largest crowd for a men’s lacrosse game there since a crowd of over 8,500 fans saw UNC beat Johns Hopkins 14-13 in double overtime on April 9, 1983.
Tutton stepped up for the Tar Heels by scoring three of his four goals in the fourth quarter scoring run, including one shot from 12 yards that he deposited behind Duke goalie Danny Fowler back-handed and on the run. Kieran Burke made five of his 10 saves in the final 15 minutes, including one on a shot by Myles Jones with 1:06 to play on Duke’s final possession.
Stephen Kelly was also a huge key in the game as he won a career high 22 faceoffs and led both teams with 10 ground balls. The 22 face-off wins were just one shy of the school record and the most won by a Tar Heel since May 9, 2009 when Shane Walterhoefer claimed 22 wins at the X against UMBC in an NCAA first round win.
Carolina improves to 10-1 on the season and 1-0 in the ACC while two-time defending NCAA champion Duke fell to 7-3 overall and 0-2 in the ACC. The Tar Heels have now reached double digits in wins in each of coach Joe Breschi’s seven years as head coach.
UNC outshot the Blue Devils 44-42 and had a 49-43 edge in ground balls. Carolina won 22 of the 33 faceoffs in the game while both teams turned the ball over 17 times. Fowler finished with 13 saves for the Blue Devils while Kieran Burke had 10 for UNC, five in the fourth quarter.
Tutton’s four goals matched his career high in a game and marked his 16th career hat trick. Both Bitter and Sankey had three goals and two assists in the game as they recorded their 20th and 19th career hat tricks, respectively. Luke Goldstock had two goals and two assists for Carolina while both Shane Simpson and Steve Pontrello each had a goal and an assist.
Deemer Class led the Blue Devils with five goals while Justin Guterding had three goals and three assists. Myles Jones had two goals and two assists for Duke while Kyle Keenan had a pair of goals.
With their performances on Sunday, Bitter has now recorded a point in 52 successive games (a school record) and Sankey has done the same in 47 consecutive contests. Sankey’s five points give him 206 for his career, moving into second place all-time at Carolina behind only Marcus Holman (2010-13) with 213 points. Bitter’s three goals give him 116 tallies as he moved into third place all-time at Carolina behind only Bert Fett (1972-75) with 128 and Marcus Holman (2010-13) with 121. Sankey’s two assists bump his career total to 91, now fourth in UNC history, and just one behind Marcus Holman for third on the career chart.