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2014 NCAA Lacrosse Tournament: Denver Downs Carolina, 9-5

It was lower scoring than expected, but the Pioneers used a patented pop to drop the Tar Heels.

Rob Carr

Denver held North Carolina scoreless for a big stretch between the first and third quarters en route to a decisive 9-5 win over the Tar Heels in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The win propels the Pios to a spot in the quarterfinals where Denver will face either Pennsylvania or Drexel at Delaware Stadium. The loss extends Carolina's Championship Weekend drought to 21 years, a shocking fact considering that only four schools -- Syracuse (11), Johns Hopkins (nine), Princeton (six), and Virginia (five) -- hold more NCAA titles than the Tar Heels (four).

The game changed after Steve Pontrello registered a tally for Carolina at the 6:36 mark of the first quarter. The goal knotted the scoreboard at one, but it set the stage for the kind of push that has defined Denver's season in 2014: Holding North Carolina scoreless for the next 23:31, the Pioneers pumped in four unanswered goals, a cushion that the Pioneers would use over the balance of the game to secure its third consecutive victory against Carolina in The Big Barbeque. The run -- one that would not end until Chad Tutton put his name in the score sheet with an unassisted bucket 1:55 into the third quarter -- was mischaracterized as it was unfolding: This wasn't a situation where the Heels didn't possess the ball; rather, it was a situation where the Pios took advantage of their opportunities and Carolina made a mess in their pants.

The box score doesn't lie: In the deciding stretch of the game, North Carolina had eight offensive opportunities against 11 offensive opportunities for Denver. In those possessions, the Pioneers scored four goals (generating tallies on over two-thirds of their tallies) on 11 shots (36.36 percent), committing five turnovers and putting only three shots in Kieran Burke's stick. Contrastingly, the Heels failed to score on 10 shots, committing five turnovers and putting three shots into Ryan LaPlante's stick. Carolina had possession -- enough possession for a team of the Tar Heels' caliber to keep the scoreboard in a manageable position despite playing in a three-possession deficit -- but did absolutely nothing with it while the Pios showed little mercy in stringing together the game's biggest goals. The game didn't get out of reach because North Carolina didn't have the ball; the game got out of reach because North Carolina's offense was rendered impotent while Denver was having a pizza party.

The teams would mirror goals in the third quarter with Carolina accounting for the first two in the period and the Pioneers accounting for the final two, giving Denver an insurmountable 8-3 lead at the start of the final quarter. The Heels would outscore the Pioneers 2-1 in the last stanza, but the goals were merely academic: Denver had already done all the damage necessary to move on in the tournament.


Possession Margin +3 -3
Raw Offensive Efficiency 19.23 39.13
Raw Offensive Shooting Rate 17.86% 23.68%
Shots per Offensive Opportunity 1.08 1.65
Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 57.69 39.13
Run-of-Play Groundballs per 100 Possessions 20.41 38.78
Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities 47.83 23.08
Team Save Percentage 55.00% 54.55%