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2019 Men’s College Lacrosse Year In Review: #33 North Carolina Tar Heels

Despite a late surge, the Tar Heels missed out on the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season.

North Carolina Athletics

With the 2019 college lacrosse season complete, it’s time to look back at how all 73 teams did during the season, along with an early look at each squad for 2020.

Note: These are not end of season rankings.

Here’s our last five Year In Review posts we’ve done:

To see all of our posts, check out the 2019 Year In Review section on the site.

Let’s continue our 2019 Year In Review!

#33 North Carolina Tar Heels

Conference: ACC
2019 Record: 8-7 (1-3 in ACC)
Postseason: Lost to Virginia in ACC Semifinals
Head coach: Joe Breschi (11th Season)

Statistical Leaders

Goals: William Perry (26)
Assists: Andy Matthews (19)
Points: Timmy Kelly (36)
Faceoffs: Zachary Tucci (164-of-328; 50%)
Ground balls: Zachary Tucci (55)
Caused turnovers: Jack Rowlett (23)
Goals against average: Alex Bassil (9.33 GAA)
Save percentage: Caton Johnson (54.4%)

Personnel Losses

Key seniors departing: D Jack Rowlett (23 CTs, 43 GBs, 4 Gs), M Timmy Kelly (20 Gs, 16 As, 17 GBs, 2 CTs), D Jake Peden (12 CTs, 19 GBs, 1 G), D Michael Nathan (12 CTs, 22 GBs), LSM Jack Halpert (7 CTs, 51 GBs, 1 G, 1 A), A Andy Matthews (13 Gs, 19 As, 25 GBs, 2 CTs), G Alex Bassil (9.33 GAA, 51.2% SV %, 15 GBs, 1 CT)
Senior scoring departing: 76 of 279 points (27.2%)
Senior starts lost: 76 of 150 (50.7%)

Season Summary

After finishing right at .500 last season, North Carolina looked to bounce back in the ACC as well as on the national stage. UNC brought in a good amount of young talent to Chapel Hill, and many of them made immediate impacts in 2019.

Unlike 2018, the Tar Heels did not have any bad losses. They defeated all of their unranked opponents and were around the top 20 for most of the season. That began with wins over Mercer, Furman, and Harvard. But North Carolina suffered their first setback with a very muddy loss to Johns Hopkins at Kenan Stadium. The following weekend, the team opened their new lacrosse stadium that was the former home of Fetzer Field against Denver. It was another close game, but Denver scored three goals in the final quarter to spoil the opening of their new digs.

UNC then earned wins over Marist, Bucknell, and Cleveland State. Neither victory was not that impressive with all six of the team’s triumphs against unranked opponents. Their schedule did get tougher with a loss against former ACC foe Maryland before entering conference play. And that’s where their season got interesting.

Joe Breschi started freshman Caton Johnson in goal for his first ever game. It came against archrival Duke, a team that was on the losing end of an overtime thriller the previous week against Syracuse. Despite giving up five straight goals to the Blue Devils in the third quarter, UNC scored the game’s final four goals and Johnson made 21 saves in his debut, including nine in the fourth, to give the Tar Heels an early conference win and their best win so far on the year. Johnson and North Carolina continued to play well inside the ACC, with Johnson recording double-digit stops for the remainder of the regular season. But UNC was unable to get another win, falling to Virginia by one, Syracuse by three, and Notre Dame by two.

Fortunately for them, the ACC Tournament format was slightly altered this past year with all five teams making the two-week tourney. As the fifth and final seed, UNC had a rematch with Syracuse in the opening round game. It looked like the Orange would move on to the conference semis with a three-goal lead with 6:42 left in the game. But the momentum shifted in North Carolina’s favor quickly, as the Tar Heels scored three goals in a span of 45 seconds to tie the game at 10 before Matt Gavin put home the game-winner with 1:07 left.

But a few days later against Virginia, UNC played Syracuse’s role in having a lead in the fourth quarter. Down four, UVA was able to tie the game at 12 before Alex Trippi regained the lead for North Carolina. But goals from Michael Kraus and Ian Laviano gave the Cavaliers the win and ended UNC’s season.

The attack was consistent for nearly the entire season with freshmen Nicky Solomon and Jacob Kelly joining senior Andy Matthews. Fellow freshman Brian Cameron also got valuable time and even started in the Duke game. Jacob’s older brother, Timmy Kelly, was the lead guy up top at midfielder and started all 15 games along with Justin Anderson. William Perry led the team with 26 goals and started the early part of the season before Trippi gained the starting spot later in the year. Tanner Cook, Gavin, Ara Atayan, and Henry Schertzinger were also contributors on offense.

While the attack was young, the defense was the complete opposite as seniors Jack Rowlett, Jake Peden, and Michael Nathan were the primary starters at close defense. Freshman Evan Egan also got some time earlier in the season. Jack Halpert and junior Cam Macri were their top LSMs with Kevin Walker also an important part of their defense. Connor Maher, Cole Haverty, and Parker Alexander were the short stick defensive midfielders. Zac Tucci was the main faceoff guy with Ryan O’Connell getting some reps as well along with some reps at a defensive midfielder. Alex Bassil and Jack Pezzulla were the two main goalies at the start of the season before Johnson came in an secured the starting role.

Looking Ahead

The offense should be better with nearly everyone except Matthews and Timmy Kelly coming back. It definitely should with the addition of former Boston University All-American Chris Gray coming in. Gray should be the quarterback on offense and everyone should benefit with the junior coming into the mix.

The big hole to fill is on defense. All three starters graduate, including Rowlett. Egan started in two games last season and played in nine total. Highly-touted freshman Will Bowen missed the entire 2019 season but should be a starter in 2020. They’ll need to find a third defenseman as Macri might be the team’s top long stick defender. Haverty is the only loss at short stick for the Tar Heels. Johnson could potentially be the best goalie in the ACC after his freshman campaign. He may have solved UNC’s year and-a-half goalie search.

North Carolina will still be fighting for a spot in the NCAA Tournament, that’s never changed. With the ACC Tournament reverting back to its old format with the fifth team staying at home, it will be paramount for the Heels to be competitive in conference play. Another early end to their season could be trouble.

Poll

How many wins will North Carolina get in 2020?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    0-5
    (3 votes)
  • 13%
    6-7
    (11 votes)
  • 63%
    8-9
    (53 votes)
  • 20%
    10+
    (17 votes)
84 votes total Vote Now