Irish fall to ACC rival Tar Heels
Manuel De Jesus | Monday, April 25, 2016
With 10 minutes left in the game, it looked as if No. 1 Notre Dame was going to lock up its second straight ACC regular season title. Almost eight minutes later, the script was completely flipped as No. 13 North Carolina scored seven straight goals to win 17-15 and snatch a piece of the ACC regular season title on Saturday at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
It was a fallout that pushed the nation’s top team back from claiming the top seed in the upcoming ACC tournament. With the loss, Notre Dame (9-2, 3-1 ACC) is now the No. 2 seed while the Tar Heels (8-5, 3-1) currently hold the No. 1 seed.
“We all hate losing so everyone was upset but we can’t get too low or too high after one game,” sophomore attack Mikey Wynne said. “We will watch film and learn from that game and move forward with our year.”
The Irish came out firing on all cylinders in the first period. After a Tar Heel goal 17 seconds into the game, Notre Dame responded with three straight goals in a two-minute span. Senior attack Matt Kavanagh netted the first of the three scores, followed by a goal from junior midfielder P.J Finley and finally a score from junior midfielder Sergio Perkovic. The Irish would go on to take a 6-3 lead after the first period, which included a last second buzzer-beating goal from freshman midfielder Drew Schantz from past midfield.
Notre Dame and North Carolina would go into the half tied 8-8, but the Irish came out of the first half just as they did in the opening period — they scored six goals to just one Tar Heel goal in the third period. Less than two minutes into the third quarter, senior midfielder Trevor Brosco broke the tie to give the Irish the lead with a score. Wynne also increased his season total for goals to 28 after scoring two goals in the third period. Perkovic, freshman attack Ryder Garnsey and freshman midfielder Timmy Phillips all added to the offensive output for the Irish to give them a 14-9 advantage heading into the final period.
Despite the lead, Notre Dame wasn’t turning in a typical defensive performance: Up until Saturday, the Irish had not allowed an opponent to score in double digits this season. Going into the final period, North Carolina had already scored nine goals. The nation’s top-ranked defense went on to then fall apart at the worst possible moment.
“Our defense has played amazing all year and will learn from that game to grow and get better and better,” Wynne said. “UNC was solid in transition and made heads up plays, credit to them.”
After Perkovic scored his fourth goal of the contest five minutes into the fourth and final period, North Carolina looked like a completely different team from the previous three periods. In the fourth period, the Tar Heels managed to get off 18 shots on the Irish defense while Notre Dame struggled with just six shots. Senior attack Steve Pontrello and junior attack Luke Goldstock led the comeback for North Carolina scoring four goals apiece on the day.
“We struggled to get the ball, hit a few posts, and didn’t make the plays we usually do at the end of games,” Wynne said.
In addition to struggling to find an offensive rhythm in the fourth period, the Irish totaled seven minutes of penalty time despite being one of the least-penalized teams in the ACC. North Carolina also dominated the faceoff battle late in the game winning seven of the last 10 faceoffs to help catapult them onto the 7-0 run.
Notre Dame will now be faced with the challenge of having to defeat No. 16 Duke twice in the same season as the two will face in the first ACC semifinal on Friday in Kennesaw, Georgia. Irish head coach Kevin Corrigan has already told his players to get past the loss and turn their focus towards the Blue Devils (9-6, 2-2).
“Coach said to stay focused and get ready for a short turnaround,” Wynne said. “We are going to work hard in practice this week and be as well prepared as we can for a very good Duke team.”
Last season the Irish fell 13-8 in the ACC semifinal against Duke. This year, Notre Dame will look to reverse that outcome Friday. The contest will tip-off at 8:30 p.m. at Kennesaw State University.