KENNESAW, Ga. - The No. 8 Syracuse men's lacrosse team used a strong defensive effort to hold No. 10 North Carolina scoreless in two quarters, and lead the Orange to its third-straight ACC Championship game, downing the Tar Heels 10-7.
Cuse held Carolina scoreless in both the first and third quarters and allowed only three goals during settled play, as four Tar Heel tallies came on extra-man opportunites.
Syracuse is now 4-1 all-time in the ACC Tournament after joining the league prior to the 2014 season, and has reached the title game each year it has been in the league. Cuse is also 8-1 in conference tournament games, dating back to its final two seasons in the Big East where a conference tournament was played.
In addition to the stout defensive performance, which was led by Evan Molloy's career-high 14 saves and Brandon Mullins' four caused turnovers and five ground balls, it was a balanced offensive attack that paced the Orange.
Seven-different players scored for SU, including a career-high two goals for the Atlanta native, Nate Solomon, as well as Jordan Evans and Derek DeJoe.
Evans broke the defensive struggle with 7:29 remaining in the first quarter. He rifled a hard shot from 15 yards out, beating Brian Balkam for the goal to make it 1-0 Cuse.
DeJoe then bounced one in after collecting a pass from Sergio Salcido less than a minute after Evans opened it up. Then, it was the local product Solomon, who tallied the third Orange goal in his home city, to give Syracuse a 3-0 lead heading into the second quarter.
After Carolina notched an extra-man goal, the Orange tallied two in a row of their own, with Dylan Donahue finishing a pass from Salcido and Matt Lane finding Jordan Evans on the doorstep to make it 5-1 Cuse and force a North Carolina timeout midway through the second period.
The Orange tacked on another with 5:28 to go before halftime when Tim Barber finished a feed fromNick Mariano, but the Tar Heels closed the half with three goals in the final 4:01 to pull within two at the break. Brian Cannon, Patrick Kelly and Steve Pontrello each scored in a span of 2:07 to make things close heading into the locker room.
The Syracuse defense rose to the challenge coming out of the break though, again holding Carolina scoreless in the frame, with DeJoe and Salcido tacking on goals, both off feeds from Mariano, who tied a career high with three assists on the evening.
Solomon picked up his second of the day in the opening moments of the fourth quarter on a pass from Paolo Ciferri, before Pontrello and Mariano traded goals to give Syracuse a 10-5 advantage with just under eight minutes to play.
UNC finished the game scoring twice more, but it wasn't enough to keep Syracuse from another ACC championship game.
Ben Williams won 12-of-21 faceoffs over All-ACC faceoff selection Stephen Kelly, to propel Cuse to the win.
The Orange will now play No. 13 Duke on Sunday at Noon on ESPNU.