CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The third-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels couldn’t do it any other way against the Dartmouth Big Green in a dominating 18-5 win at Fetzer Field on Saturday.
Joey Sankey (3 goals, 4 assists) and Jimmy Bitter (3 goals) were part of a group of 10 different Tar Heels scorers that kept the Big Green defense reaching and reacting throughout the game.
Putting out a very young team in front of an experienced and loaded Tar Heels squad, Dartmouth head coach Andrew Towers expected his team to be put to the test for its first game of the season.
“I thought our goalie played well,” Towers said.
“We battled at the faceoff X. We knew that they were very deep. We knew that they were very athletic. We knew that they were very well coached. They may be the best coached team in the country…We ended up playing too much defense against a team that’s that talented and eventually they’re gonna’ make you pay for it. I thought they did that.”
It was another dominating offensive effort by the Tar Heels that put many players from all positions on the field and onto the score sheet.
Midfielders Pat Foster, Chad Tutton, Michael Tagliaferi, and Walker Chafee all had two apiece while attackman Luke Goldstock and defensemen Austin Pifani and Evan Connell tallied singles.
Starting goalkeeper Kieran Burke earned his third win of the season with eight saves as the Tar Heels (3-0) extended their all-time record against Dartmouth (0-1) to 11-3, winning their 11th straight over the Big Green.
North Carolina finished 18-for-27 from the faceoff X, with brothers Frankie and Stephen Kelly doing the majority of the work in filling in for a still injured R.G. Keenan, as they won 11 and seven of 26 faceoffs taken respectively.
“Really proud of the effort overall,” North Carolina head coach Joe Breschi said.
“The guys did a terrific job – kind of a workman-like day. Everybody got a chance to get in I think for the most part. I was really impressed with our attack – a nice job for Bitter and Sankey there to come in and play as hard as they did.”
At the other end of the field, Dartmouth starting keeper Blair Friedensohn made his share of stops finishing with 12 as North Carolina outshot the Big Green 52-20, and finished with a 31-13 margin of getting shots on goal.
Keeping another opponent to five goals or less for the third straight game showed North Carolina’s strength on the back end as much as they flaunted it on the front end, causing 19 turnovers and contributing towards a ground ball total of 43 pick-ups.
“I think this was one of the best defensive performances I have seen since I’ve been here honestly,” Sankey said.
“Starting with our goalie (Kieran) Burke, he’s done a good job quarterbacking the defense. That really starts our offense. When they get a really big stop, we get transition going. So they really sparked our offense which I thought was the key to this victory.”
As Breschi pointed out that his team’s next nine games will come against ranked opponents, including facing new Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) foe Notre Dame next week, his team will continue to work on the little details.
Both he and his players understand that they will need to draw from the depth of performances in all positions they have had so far in order to be successful against the tougher opposition they will face.
“The main focus for us it that we don’t think about the team we’re playing,” Bitter said.
“We focus on what we’re doing each day and trying to get better. “