The North Carolina Tar Heels are the 67th team in our 2017 schedule preview. The Tar Heels finished 12-6 overall, and 3-1 in ACC play. North Carolina lost to Syracuse in the ACC Semifinals, but ended up beating Marquette, Notre Dame, Loyola, and Maryland in overtime to win their first NCAA Championship since 1991 in their first Championship Weekend appearance since 1993. Let’s dive into their schedule.
The Tar Heels will host High Point and Navy in scrimmages in January before opening up their final season at the current Fetzer Field against UMBC on February 4. North Carolina goes to South Carolina to take on Furman on the 11th, before returning home to host Lehigh on February 18. The Heels renew their rivalry with Johns Hopkins at home on February 25. Last year, UNC beat the Blue Jays at Homewood Field, 15-11.
The Tar Heels travel to Denver to take on the Pioneers on March 4 in what should be another exciting chapter to this rivalry. The Pios beat the Heels in overtime last season at Fetzer Field. UNC will begin a huge five-game homestand to close out Fetzer Field, beginning with hosting Hofstra on March 11. The team hopes to forget last year’s meeting, as the Pride upset the Tar Heels, 10-5. UNC will host Richmond two days later, followed by a home game against Dartmouth on March 18. An early candidate for regular game of the year will be held on March 25, as the Tar Heels host Maryland in a rematch of last year’s epic NCAA Championship game. That game will be on ESPNU, which will begin a stretch of at least five consecutive games that the Heels will be on the channel.
ACC play opens up on April 2, as North Carolina hosts archrival Duke in the final game at Fetzer Field. The Heels defeated the Blue Devils in overtime in last year’s meeting. The team then travels to Charlottesville to take on Virginia on April 9. UNC will take on Syracuse, aka their kryptonite last year, at Kenan Memorial Stadium as part of Alumni Weekend on April 15. The Orange beat the Tar Heels in both meetings last year, and have won the past three meetings. The regular season wraps up on April 22 in South Bend against Notre Dame. UNC won both of those meetings last year. Depending on where they’ll finish in the conference standings, North Carolina will either play in the ACC Tournament beginning on April 28 in Durham, or they will play Penn on the 29th in the ACC showcase game as the fifth place team from the conference.
The team has some notable losses from a year ago, including leading goal and point scorer Steve Pontrello on attack, although he spend the majority of his career at midfield. Luke Goldstock and Chris Cloutier are back, as well as Timmy Kelly, who may be the third starter at attack, although Jordan Prysko is another possibility. The team also brings in two talented freshmen in Matthew Gavin and Michael Guerin. At midfield, Michael Tagliaferri and Shane Simpson return, with Patrick Kelly, Timmy’s older brother, leaving. There’s a good amount of talent at UNC’s disposal, including Brian Cannon, William McBride, Peyton Klawinski, and freshman Will “Refrigerator” Perry.
On defense, all three starting defensemen from last year’s national championship game are back in top defensemen Austin Pifani, Jack Rowlett, and Ryan Macri. Kyle Mathie and Joe Kenna are also available, and Jack Lambert should get more time at LSM with the departures of Zach Powers and Evan Connell. Freshman Patrick Lyons could also get some looks during the season as well. Tate Jozokos is one of the top short stick defensive midfielders in the nation, and will be joined by Brett Bedard and Timmy Gehlbach. In goal will presumably be Brian Balkam after he took over last year after the surprising departure of Kieran Burke, but top goaltending prospect Jack Pezzulla will put some heat on the redshirt-junior. Stephen “Bones” Kelly, cousin to Patrick and Timmy, returns as the top face-off man, with Charles Kelly (not related to any of the other Kellys) and freshman Blake Tyndall backing him up.
It’s always tough to repeat in anything, but Joe Breschi’s squad won the National Championship as a bubble team and as an unseeded team. It’s possible. They can certainly do it again if they get hot at the right time, like they did last year. Let’s hope he dabs again too.
To see every team’s schedule and which one’s we’ve highlighted, check our our master schedule list.