NCAA MLAX Quarterfinals: North Carolina Downs Notre Dame to Advance to Championship Weekend

Tar Heels top Irish in ACC matchup, while Syracuse falls short in its bid.

COLUMBUS, OHIO – The University of North Carolina men’s lacrosse team is headed to the NCAA Tournament semifinals for the first time since 1993 after beating third-seeded Notre Dame 13-9 Sunday afternoon at Ohio Stadium in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals.  Carolina advance to the NCAA Final Four at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa., next Saturday where it will play either Loyola or Towson.

The Heels never trailed in the game and held Notre Dame to just three goals in the first three quarters.  Carolina sophomore goalkeeper Brian Balkam matched his career high with 14 saves in the game, including eight in the fourth quarter when Notre Dame outshot the Tar Heels 19-3.  But by then, UNC had built a nine-goal advantage and despite a late five-goal run by Notre Dame UNC had enough of an edge to head to the final four by improving to 10-6 on the season.  Notre Dame fell to 11-4 with the loss.

Carolina was led by Steve Pontrello with four goals and two assists while Chris Cloutier had three goals and three assists on the afternoon.  Pontrello scored UNC’s last four goals of the game while Cloutier had a first half hat trick.  Luke Goldstock and Michael Tagliaferri each had two goals for UNC and Timmy Kelly had a goal and an assist.

Notre Dame was led by Mikey Wynne who had four goals while Matt Kavanagh had two goals for the Fighting Irish.  UNC had also beaten Notre Dame in the regular season 17-15 on April 23 in Chapel Hill.

Notre Dame outshot the Tar Heels 43-34 but Balkam matched his career high in saves to make the difference.  He also had 14 saves against Virginia in the regular season.

Stephen Kelly again was a monster at the face-off X for the Tar Heels as he won 17 of 25 face-offs.  He also led the Tar Heels with 11 ground balls.  It marked the sixth time this year that Kelly has won 17 or more face-offs in a game and the fourth time he has had double digits in ground balls.

The Tar Heels opened the scoring 3:16 into the game on a fast break goal by Michael Tagliaferri.  Notre Dame equalized after the Tar Heels turned the ball over on a clearing attempt with Mikey Wynne scoring at 8:41 of the quarter.  UNC retook the lead at 2-1 with 3:32 left in the first quarter as Patrick Kelly dodged the left alley and finished with his left hand from eight yards past Notre Dame goalkeeper Shane Doss.  After a long possession at the end of the first quarter, Notre Dame tied the game at 2-2 with a goal by Matt Kavanagh with 19.7 seconds left in the period.  Carolina won the ensuing face-off and Stephen Kelly fed Chris Cloutier for the go-ahead goal with 12.6 seconds to play in the period.

UNC scored the only three goals of the second quarter, all rattled off in a span of just 2:32.  On the first two goals, UNC attackmen were left wide open on the crease and took passes from behind to score one-on-one against Doss.  Luke Goldstock tallied at 10:39, assisted by Steve Pontrello.  Fifty-three seconds later, Chris Cloutier was alone on the crease and scored off a feed from Timmy Kelly.  Then at 8:07 of the period, Cloutier registered a goal on a behind-his-back shot off an assist by Pontrello to make it 6-2 in favor of Carolina.  It marked the first hat trick for Cloutier since March 19 versus Richmond and it was his fourth hat trick of the campaign.

The Tar Heels came out on fire with three goals in the first 3:47 of the period.  Michael Tagliaferri scored his second goal of the game on a bounce shot with 13:09 left and then at 11:56 Timmy Kelly buried a shot right inside the top right corner of the goal to make it 8-2 Carolina.  UNC continued its scoring run as Goldstock tallied off an assist by Cloutier at 11:13.  The Heels then made it 10-2 on a goal by Pontrello, assisted by Cloutier at 4:31 of the quarter.  Wynne scored for Notre Dame with 1:52 left in the third quarter off an assist by Drew Schantz, the first goal for the Fighting Irish since 19 seconds left in the first quarter.  Pontrello then scored with 1:10 left in the third quarter on a shot from near midfield as the Fighting Irish were pressing out defensively and left their net unattended.

UNC headed into the fourth quarter with an eight-goal lead at 11-3 but Notre Dame had a furious comeback in it in the fourth quarter to make things interesting.  Pontrello scored two of the first three goals of the fourth quarter to make it 13-4 before Notre Dame ran off the last five goals of the contest. 

PROVIDENCE, R.I.- The eighth-seeded Syracuse men's lacrosse team was unable to overcome its four-goal halftime deficit, falling to top-seeded Maryland by the final score of 13-7 at Brown University in the NCAA quarterfinals. 

Despite Syracuse (12-5) outshooting Maryland (16-2) 40-31 in the contest and dominating the Terrapins with a 38-23 mark in ground balls, Maryland goalkeeper Kyle Bernlohr kept the Orange out of the net, as the Terps netminder finished with a game-high 16 total saves to advance past 'Cuse.

Senior Tim Barber led the Orange offensive attack, finishing with two goals, an assist and a game-high five ground balls, while Ben Williams was dominant at the faceoff X, winning 13-of-16 at one point, to finish 15-of-24 on the game. For Maryland, Matt Rambo and Dylan Maltz combined for seven of the Terps' 13 goals.