CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The 14th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels weren’t able to mount much of a comeback when the 10th-ranked Maryland Terrapins upended the defending champions 15-7 in front of 2,845 in attendance at Fetzer Field on Saturday.
Facing each other for the first time since last year’s NCAA championship final, the dramatics that took place back then were absent from the Tar Heels.
Led by senior attackman Matt Rambo’s two-goal, three-assist finish, as well as Connor Kelly’s identical five points (2g, 3a), the Terps mounted an overpowering offensive output that also featured a hat trick from Dylan Maltz, and pair from Tim Rotanz, Colin Heacock, and Jared Bernhardt.
Timmy Kelly scored two while singles from Luke Goldstock, Chris Cloutier, and three others rounded out the Tar Heels’ offensive production while starting goalkeeper Brian Balkam and Jack Pezzulla combined for four stops throughout.
Dan Morris’ 12 saves was a key factor in leading Maryland’s defense against a North Carolina attack that didn’t produce as dynamically as it’s used to.
North Carolina turnovers and tight defensive play and stops from Morris got the Terps the possessions they needed to build up a sizeable 6-2 lead after the opening 15 minutes of play.
“We just tried to not do too much – just let the game come to us,” Maryland head coach John Tillman said.
“Not try to get too uptight or rush it. Let’s just play. And I thought we played with a lot of poise today. I felt we were pretty opportunistic. That was the big part for us – we wanna be aggressive, we don’t wanna force it, but it there are opportunities, let’s make the most of those opportunities. Carolina is so good, they’re so talented, so well-coached, and we knew we would have to put some goals up because we knew they would put a lot of pressure on us defensively.”
Trailing 9-3 at halftime, many would have expected the Tar Heels to respond, but a scoreless 14 minutes didn’t see them cut into the Maryland lead until 3:07 remained in the third quarter.
Faced with a 13-4 margin to come back from with only 15 minutes to play, North Carolina managed to win the final period 3-2.
But, it wasn’t enough.
“It was disappointing,” North Carolina head coach Joe Breschi said.
“I thought we were well prepared. We just didn’t execute. All the credit goes to Maryland – they played hard, they out-ground-balled us, out-scrapped us between the lines. In a game like that, you can’t go down as quickly as we did in the first quarter. Our goalies didn’t get much help. I think defensively, we were not that sharp from that point on. We’ve gotta do a better job as a staff in preparing them.”
While both sides claimed 12 faceoff wins apiece – Stephen Kelly winning them for UNC while Austin Henningsen won nine and Jon Garino, Jr. getting three – the difference came down to scoring when needed.
“They’re a good team – they always have been – and play good year in and year out,” Kelly said.
“They just played better than us today. We just didn’t execute as well as we wanted to.”
“Our defense has been doing a great job all year, and we’re not helping them by scoring seven goals,” Goldstock added.
“We can’t win games scoring seven goals. We’ve gotta look at ourselves in the mirror and figure out our identity, and figure out how to fix this problem because we’re not scoring goals.”
Even while losing its third game in its last four, Breschi and his team know that its upcoming ACC schedule will require a better effort to put forward to prepare for another postseason run.
“The ACC (schedule) is a new season ahead of us,” Breschi said.
“We’ve got the whole season sittin’ in front of you. We’ve been 5-4 before and with the ACC in front of us, we’ve got our work cut out for us. With the ACC, you’ve got everything sitting in front of you, but you don’t just flip the switch and you play. You’ve gotta go out there and compete. We’ve gotta compete harder in practice because everybody’s gunning for you.”