ALBANY, N.Y. – There will be a new National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) men’s lacrosse champion crowned in 2017.
The ninth-ranked and defending-champion North Carolina Tar Heels (8-8) succumbed to the fourth-ranked and seeded Albany Great Danes by a 15-12 margin in opening-round tournament play at Casey Stadium on Friday.
UNC attackman Chris Cloutier led a furious second half rally and finished with five goals, while Luke Goldstock and Jack Rowlett added two apiece, and three others tallied singles.
After posting dramatic wins with a high-powered offensive output during the ACC Tournament two weeks ago, North Carolina didn’t have enough to overcome a 14-3 halftime deficit that Albany (15-2) created.
Led by Bennett Drake’s five goals, along with three from each Adam Osika and Kyle McClancy, the Great Danes created an ample cushion to sit on for the remaining 30 minutes of play.
Though scoring the game’s first goal, a highlight-reel behind-the-back grounder at the 10:18 mark, Cloutier and North Carolina were held to less than a handful of goals while Osika started a 7-1 run to end the first quarter.
Drake continued Albany’s offensive onslaught into the next period and before the Tar Heels had any chance to catch their breath they found themselves with their shoulders pinned to the wet turf with an 11-goal margin to cut down.
TD Ierlan’s work at the faceoff-X, finishing 23-of-30 overall and winning 15 of the 19 face-offs in the first half against UNC’s Stephen Kelly (7-27), allowed the Great Danes to maintain possession and establish its lead.
Up to that point, Albany outshot the Tar Heels 27-12 and dominated the ground game, picking up loose balls at a 21-9 differential.
Led by an early offense goal off the draw from defender Jack Rowlett to start the third period, Cloutier and Goldstock then cranked up the North Carolina scoring machine.
UNC tallied nine straight goals and trailed 14-12 with 10:12 remaining in the game.
Osika’s tally with 5:49 remaining increased the Tar Heels’ challenge to pull even.
Down by three goals, they just didn’t have anything left.
An exceptional goalkeeping performance by JD Colarusso, who finished with 13 saves, including three key stops for the remainder of the game, helped secure the first-round win for Albany and ended UNC’s postseason run after it barely began.