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Men’s lacrosse falls to North Carolina

Virginia commits 18 turnovers and outshot 48-34

Offensively, the Virginia men’s lacrosse team had been clicking on all cylinders entering Friday night’s showdown against conference foe North Carolina.

But whether it was pressure from playing under the lights in front of 3,900 fans, tense nerves against a longtime rival or just a general lack of composure, the Cavaliers looked all out of sorts throughout the contest.

Despite winning the faceoff battle, No. 8 Virginia (8-3, 0-3 ACC) committed 18 turnovers and was outshot 48-34 in a disappointing 10-6 loss against No. 4 North Carolina (11-1, 2-0 ACC).

North Carolina senior attackman Joey Sankey led the North Carolina offense with four goals and an assist, including two strikes in the fourth quarter to help put away Virginia.

“We weren’t sharp enough over 60 minutes,” coach Dom Starsia said. “We’ve been better offensively. I thought we gave away too many [goals]. There was not enough poise on the offensive end of the field.”

North Carolina had a large advantage in time of possession through the first quarter, but Virginia stayed in the game thanks to an outstanding effort from sophomore goalie Matt Barrett, who had six of his 18 saves through the first 15 minutes.

Barrett stuffed a doorstep attempt after withstanding a four-shot North Carolina opening possession, leading to a goal by senior midfielder Tyler German just under four minutes into the first quarter.

But the Tar Heels rattled off two straight goals of their own by senior attackman Jimmy Bitter and sophomore attackman Luke Goldstock, respectively, to take an early lead.

Junior attackman Greg Coholan evened the game for Virginia with 59 seconds remaining in first quarter.

The second quarter got off to a promising start for the Cavaliers after winning the opening faceoff and later surviving a long North Carolina possession, but back-to-back Cavalier turnovers led to two quick Tar Heel goals, giving them a 4-2 lead with 9:55 before halftime.

“We came out in the first quarter and got the first goal and then we turned the ball over a couple of times when we didn’t need to,” Starsia said. “The game got away from us a little bit. Against a team of that caliber, you can’t keep giving them second opportunities.”

For the next 9:02, neither team could find the back of the net due in part to turnovers, missed shots and great saves by both goalies.

But with just 54 seconds before halftime — a full 15 minutes since the last Cavalier goal — Coholan buried his second of the night to pull Virginia within one at halftime.

Coholan started the third quarter right where he left off in the second, sending in a low angle shot just 49 seconds into the quarter to even the game at four.

But the rest of the game would not be so kind to Virginia. North Carolina junior midfielder Steve Pontrello responded by scoring back-to-back goals. The contest remained scoreless for nearly eight minutes before Sankey netted his second of the night to give the Tar Heels a 7-4 lead with 3:49 to play in the quarter.

The Cavaliers had plenty of chances to score in their four possessions between North Carolina’s sixth and seventh goal, but each of those possessions ended in turnovers. Virginia, which averaged 11.4 turnovers per game entering the night, committed eight in the third quarter alone.

“I didn’t think we were poised enough on the offensive end in the third quarter,” Starsia said. “I think we turned the ball over a couple of times and we got a little bit frustrated and lost our composure.”

German started the fourth quarter scoring with 6:24 remaining in the game, pulling Virginia to within two and bringing Klöckner Stadium to life.

But hope was soon quelled when Sankey tallied his hat trick less than a minute later after Virginia failed to pick up a ground ball in front of its own net.

“We knew they were great off the ground,” Coholan said. “They get a ton of transition goals so we had to be aware of that. They were fighting for the ground balls as much as we were, but they were putting it in the back of the net.”

The Tar Heels sealed the deal when Bitter’s circus shot caught nylon with 3:43 to play. North Carolina added one final goal with 2:46 remaining to double up Virginia, 10-5. Sophomore midfielder Zed Williams put in a goal for the Cavaliers at the 1:04 mark, cutting the lead to 10-6, which would hold until the final horn.

Still, not to be lost in the contest was the performance by the Virginia defense, which held a North Carolina offense that was scoring over 15 goals per game before Friday to just 10. However, this effort made the offense’s struggles all the more disappointing, Coholan said.

“Having the chances we did and getting the open shots we did and not putting those in the back of the net, we definitely owe our defense that for working hard all game,” Coholan said. “We just didn’t put the ball in the back of the net the best we could have.”

Virginia will next travel to Durham, North Carolina to take on Duke Sunday at noon.