DURHAM, N.C. — Led by Chris Cloutier's Most Valuable Player performance, No. 20 North Carolina men's lacrosse defeated No. 7 Notre Dame 14-10 Sunday afternoon in the ACC championship game at Koskinen Stadium on the Duke campus. A crowd of 2,325 fans was in attendance to see the No. 4 seed Tar Heels down the No. 3 seed Fighting Irish just eight days after Notre Dame defeated UNC 14-13 in the regular-season meeting between the two teams in South Bend, Indiana.
Cloutier, who had three goals and two assists in the championship game, was joined on the all-tournament team by senior attackman Luke Goldstock, senior long-stick midfielder Jack Lambert and sophomore attackman Andy Matthews.
With the win, the Tar Heels become NCAA tournament selection-eligible at 8-7, winning their first ACC championship since 2013. Notre Dame falls to 8-4 on the season. It was the 13th ACC men's lacrosse championship overall for the Tar Heels.
The Tar Heels jumped out of the gate with four straight goals and held at least a two-goal lead the rest of the game. After that initial scoring run by the Tar Heels, the closest the Fighting Irish could get was 4-2 early in the second frame and 8-6 heading into the fourth quarter. UNC senior Stephen Kelly won 10-of-11 face-offs in the fourth quarter and the Tar Heels outscored the Fighting Irish 6-4 in the final quarter to pull away for the 14-10 win.
Luke Goldstock led the Tar Heels with four goals, all coming in the fourth quarter. The four goals for Goldstock give him 118 career goals. He is now fifth all-time in Tar Heel history. Marcus Holman (2010-13) is in fourth place with 121 career goals. With four points in the game, Goldstock moved past both Mac Ford and Jed Prossner into 11th place in career points with 176. Billy Bitter (2007-10) ranks 10th with 178 career points.
Chris Cloutier had three goals and two assists in the championship game. He had all of his goals in the first half, pacing the Tar Heels to a 7-3 lead at intermission. He then assisted on back-to-back goals by Goldstock in the fourth quarter that gave UNC its third five-goal lead of the game at 13-8 with 6:52 to play. With his five points in the game, Cloutier ran his career total to 102, becoming the 42nd Tar Heel in history to hit the century mark in points.
Cloutier finished the tournament's two games with nine points (six goals, three assists) while Goldstock had eight points in two games (six goals, three assists). Sophomore Andy Matthews had a goal and three assists in the semifinals against Syracuse and again in the championship game against Notre Dame. All earned their way onto the All-Tournament Team.
Freshman William Perry had two goals, both on the extra-man, and an assist in the championship contest while Justin Anderson, Timmy Kelly and Tanner Cook each had a single goal. Senior long-stick defensive midfielder Jack Lambert was one of the heroes of the weekend for the Tar Heels as he had two goals in the semifinal win over Syracuse and a goal and two assists in the championship game victory over Notre Dame. Coming into the weekend, Lambert had a single point in his career, a goal earlier this season against Maryland.
Brendan Gleason led Notre Dame with his first career hat trick. Bryan Costabile had two goals and an assist for the Irish.
Stephen Kelly came back from a rough first half to end the game with 11 ground balls and a 14 of 26 performance at the face-off X. He won 10 of 11 face-offs in the fourth quarter, allowing the Tar Heels to dominate possession and protect and extend their lead. Kelly has now won 711 face-offs in his career (12 behind career leader Shane Walterhoefer who had 723 from 2006-09). Kelly has 374 career ground balls, the third most in UNC history.
Tar Heel redshirt junior goalkeeper Brian Balkam made 11 saves for the Tar Heels in the victory while Shane Doss had 12 saves for the Fighting Irish.
UNC outshot the Fighting Irish 44-31. Notre Dame had a 37-34 edge in ground balls. Both teams won 14 face-offs. UNC committed 15 turnovers and was 21 of 25 in the clearing game. Notre Dame was guilty of 13 turnovers and was 17 of 19 in the clearing game.
UNC went 3-for-5 on extra-man opportunities while Notre Dame was 1-for-6 on the EMO.
Carolina continued to perform well offensively against the Fighting Irish who have surrendered their two highest goal totals of the season to UNC with 14 tallies against them on Sunday and 13 against them on April 22 in the regular-season meeting.
The Tar Heels started the game on a four-goal scoring run in the opening 7:17 of the game. Andy Matthews scored an unassisted goal 58 seconds into the match to draw first blood. Carolina earned a man-up opportunity after a holding call on Mikey Wynne and converted on it with a goal by William Perry, assisted by Matthews, with 11:34 left in the first quarter. Cloutier started his hat trick off an assist by Perry with 9:42 left in the period and two minutes later the Tar Heels scored in transition with Lambert scoring his third goal of the weekend off an assist by Michael Tagliaferri.
After Notre Dame scored the next two goals, UNC ran off three straight goals to go up 7-2. Justin Anderson tallied an unassisted goal with 11:41 left in the second period before Chris Cloutier scored his second goal of the contest, assisted by Matthews, at 9:20. Cloutier finished off his first-half hat trick with an unassisted goal at 4:36 of the period and Drew Schantz answered for Notre Dame 34 seconds later, making it 7-3 Tar Heels at halftime.
Timmy Kelly opened the scoring for UNC in the second half but after his goal at 12:49 at the third quarter, the Tar Heels would be kept off the scoreboard for over 13 minutes. Meanwhile, the Irish put three goals on the scoreboard, including a pair in the last minute and a half of the third quarter.
With its lead cut to just two goals heading into the fourth quarter, UNC responded with three goals in a span of 2:19 early in the fourth quarter. Tanner Cook scored a man-up goal at 14:20 after claiming a loose ball on the crease. That was followed up by a Luke Goldstock transition goal off an assist by Jack Lambert at 13:19. Carolina earned another man-up situation shotly afterwards and William Perry converted for the second time on the man advantage, again off an assist by Matthews. Perry's goal proved to be the eventual game-winner and it put UNC up 11-6 with 11:07 to play. It was the second of three times UNC would lead by five in the contest.
Notre Dame answered with two goals just 41 seconds apart to pull within 11-8 but Goldstock and Cloutier would make sure the Irish would get no closer. Goldstock scored back-to-back goals off Cloutier assists at 8:07 and at 6:52 of the final period. Goldstock would go on to score once more, again in transition off an assist by Lambert, at 2:27.
UNC will now wait to see if it claims a spot in the NCAA tournament field. Selection Sunday is May 7 at 9 p.m. on ESPNU.