NCAA MLAX: No. 1 Tar Heels open season with 17-6 rout of UMBC

Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network
Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network

RALEIGH, N.C. – Timmy Kelly and Justin Anderson led the charge as the defending NCAA-champion North Carolina Tar Heels opened the 2017 season with a dominating 17-6 win over the UMBC Retrievers at Cardinal Gibbons Stadium on Saturday.

Hat tricks from both midfielders along with a four-point performance from preseason All-ACC senior attackman Luke Goldstock generated the momentum during the opening quarter for 10 different scorers to eventually contribute to the win.

Chris Cloutier, last year’s NCAA Finals MVP added a goal and two assists as UNC outshot UMBC 41-24 – 28 shots of which made it to or past Retrievers goalkeeper Ruston Souder, who finished with 11 stops.

Tar Heels starter Brian Balkam earned the win, allowing only one goal in 30 minutes, and provided the opportunity for backup Jack Pezzulla, and walk-on Alex Bassil to split time in the second half.

Timmy’s cousin, Stephen Kelly won 11-of-16 draws from the faceoff-X and started the offensive onslaught against the Retrievers.

Kelly claimed the opening ground ball and ran it down the field to score the Tar Heels’ first goal of the season at the 15-second mark.

North Carolina put together an 8-0 run and led 10-1 at the end of the first period.

“We really felt like, in particular the first quarter, jumping out really set the tone for us, and he’s the reason,” North Carolina head coach Joe Breschi said of Kelly.

“If you don’t have the ball, you can’t score.”

Leading 12-1 at halftime, Breschi made adjustments to put more players into the game.

“Our focus at halftime was to try to get ourselves better,” he said.

“By sharing the ball, we’re at our best.”

Facing UMBC for the first time in six years, the national and ACC preseason No. 1 Tar Heels made easy work of a UMBC squad that’s rebuilding from a 4-10 season under the guidance of first-year head coach Ryan Moran.

A hat trick and an assist from attackman Max Maxwell pieced together UMBC’s offensive efforts from five different scorers.

Overall, North Carolina rode well – UMBC cleared the ball successfully only 15-of-23 times – and played effectively on the ground, picking up 37 ground balls to 27 claimed by the Retrievers.

The most glaring trouble spot for North Carolina was committing 15 turnovers.

“I think we played a great game,” Anderson said.

“There were a few turnovers in the second half, but I think that’s something we’re going to work on this week, get back to it, and next week we’re going to play even better.”

X’s and O’s

With 10 different scorers, the Carolina offense executed successfully, but didn’t get to do so against more varied defensive sets as it would have liked.

“They didn’t slide much and that’s where we got some unassisted opportunities – we had seven unassisted goals,” Breschi said.

“We did get some transition. I thought we would get more transition, but we didn’t take advantage of it.”

Even while getting more personnel playing time, the Tar Heels’ lapses defensively during the final 30 minutes of play allowed UMBC to play them even as both sides scored five goals apiece to end the game.

1st Quarter

Faceoff specialist Kelly got the Tar Heels offense cranked up off the opening draw, beating UMBC’s Jake Brothers and running down the left-center lane and beat Souder 15 seconds in.

With Kelly’s help in claiming possession, UNC put together a 7-0 run with singles from Brian Cannon, Anderson, and Goldstock complementing multiples from Timmy Kelly and Cloutier.

North Carolina led 8-0 after Cloutier’s second, a low sidearm, beat Souder with 4:32 remaining.

UMBC finally got on the board just over a minute later when a high-low shot in close from Austin Mitchell beat Balkam.

Following Peyton Klawinski’s first and Kelly’s third goal of the game, the Tar Heels led 10-1 heading into the next period.

2nd Quarter

Once again, UNC scored within the first minute on its first possession as William Perry extended the margin to 10 goals.

Offensive production settled down as the Tar Heels looked to work on set plays and matchups.

Turnovers provided the Retrievers possession opportunities, but none that challenged Balkam.

Anderson sniped a high-to-high shot over Souder’s head, and scored his second goal to push UNC further ahead, leading 12-1 with 4:27 remaining.

While holding possession for much of the remainder of the period, the Tar Heels made shot attempts, but missed the mark on them.

3rd Quarter

Pezzulla started in the cage for the Tar Heels.

A slashing penalty to Kenna provided UMBC with the first extra-man opportunity (EMO) for either team.

Though not converting on the EMO, Maxwell’s sidearm at even-strength beat Pezzulla for the Retrievers’ second tally of the game.

With 5:12 remaining, a clearing turnover by Tate Jozokos allowed Maxwell to pick up the loose ball and beat a retreating Pezzulla.

The goal cut the UNC lead down to 13-3.

Anderson’s third added to the double-digit margin before UMBC’s Ben Revak ended the period’s scoring with UNC leading 14-4.

4th Quarter

Maxwell’s third goal early on gave the Retrievers their first successive goal-scoring output of the game.

UNC’s Matthew Gavin scored his first collegiate goal when Goldstock drew two defenders at goal-line extended to Souder’s right.

The freshman attack cradled the ball once before unleashing a short sidearm snipe that beat the Retrievers keeper and reestablished the UNC lead at 10 goals, 15-5, at the 7:33 mark.

UMBC tried its hand at beating the Tar heels man-down defense once again and after a stop by Pezzulla, Ryan Frawley cleaned up the rebound for the EMO goal.

While Carolina brought in Bassil, its third keeper, in on the fly with 4:35 to play, Gavin scored his second of the game at the other end of the field.

Senior midfielder Luke Walsh finalized the game’s scoring with 1:21 remaining.