ACC MLAX: North Carolina tops Duke 15-14

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The fourth-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels beat the seventh-ranked Duke Blue Devils 15-14 in front of 5,177 at Fetzer Field on Sunday.

It was the Tar Heels’ largest crowd at home since 6,000-plus packed the field against John’s Hopkins in 1983.

Jimmy Bitter and and Joey Sankey each posted three goals and two assists, but Chad Tutton’s four-goal performance helped make the difference to give the Tar Heels their first win over Duke on their home field since 2003.

It was big win for the Tar Heels who earned their first ACC win while claiming regular-season bragging rights considering that coming into the game, the Blue Devils had won 17 of the two teams’ previous matchups.

Justin Guterding posted six points (3 goals, 3assists) and coupled with Deemer Class’ five-goal performance countered for Duke.

However, it wasn’t enough to claim another win over the Tar Heels.

Goalkeeper Kieran Burke made his final stop of the day on a 15-yard high-to-high shot from Myles Jones to seal the victory for the Tar Heels, finishing with 10 total stops on the day.

While a six-goal second quarter put Duke ahead 7-5 at halftime, the Tar Heels, led by rally from Bitter and Tutton dominated play during the final two quarters.

Making his collegiate debut, Duke redshirt freshman keeper Danny Fowler was impressive in the opening half, eventually putting together a 13-save performance, but one that came one stop too short.

Steve Pontrello’s only goal of the game became the eventual game-winner, putting the Tar Heels ahead 15-12 at the time.

A two-goal rally from Class, pulled Duke closer, but it was Burke who had the final say, making the final stop of the day against the Blue Devils.

North Carolina extended its overall record to 10-1 and 1-0 in Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) play, while Duke dropped to 7-3 and 0-2 in the ACC.

With both teams coming off losses the week before, each needed to make a statement during their 71st all-time meeting.

“I think it’s a big win, the first ACC game,” North Carolina head coach Joe Breschi said.

“That’s the big thing we talked about. Every team’s different, chemistry’s different, leadership’s different. But still, to get a win at Fetzer, at home, against your rivals is a big deal to the team in general. A lot of credit goes to Duke. Two teams were fightin’ till the end. It was a great lacrosse game. We’ll most likely meet again at some point.”

In addition to timely saves at the back end, winning faceoffs determined how this game played out.

Duke’s Jack Rowe came into the game ranked 18th nationally (126-90) with a 58-percent success rate at the faceoff X, while North Carolina’s Stephen Kelly sat 44th (112-114) with a neutral 50-percent possession margin.

In the end, Kelly dominated at the faceoff X.

He won 22-of-33 draws, while Rowe finished 10-of-28 with Brian Dailey (1-4) and Peter Welch (0-1) coming in to albeit unsuccessfully contend against Kelly as well.

”They made plays, they won faceoffs,” Danowski said.

“They won 75 percent of the faceoffs in the second half. They wanna’ play early offense, the first 15 seconds of each possession –whether it’s a faceoff, coming from the defensive end. I thought we did a good job in the first half limiting that, but they scored the first three goals of the second half in the third quarter in their early offense. They just kept playin’. They didn’t do anything differently. They just did it better.”