CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Loyola lacrosse coach Dave Cottle's formula for beating top-seeded North Carolina in the NCAA quarterfinals turned out to be slightly more ideal than real. The Tar Heels shot just enough holes in it to stop Loyola 11-9 in a steady rain at Fetzer Field.
"We felt going in we had a great chance to win," Cottle said. "We felt we were playing our best lacrosse of the year and we figured they might not be."
Cottle was right, but not right enough.
Carolina's late-season slump continued as its high-powered offense misfired often, but the Tar Heels were able to call on other weapons. A 56-37 edge in ground balls led to a 40-26 advantage in shots. A 2-1 first-quarter lead became theirs to lose.
"In my heart, I thought if we got that tying goal the game would be ours," Loyola attackman Chris Colbeck said.
It never came. The Tar Heels (14-0) will face three-time defending champion Syracuse at the Carrier Dome Saturday in a rematch of last year's semifinal.
The Greyhounds, their shot at a return to the title game over, finished 9-4 after their fourth straight trip to the quarterfinals. They were left to consider Colbeck's question -- what if they had taken advantage of just one of their nine opportunities to tie the game after the first quarter?
The 1-1 tie when Colbeck countered Dan Donnelly's opening goal was the game's last.
Carolina's lead reached three goals twice, at 4-1 and 6-3, but Loyola responded each time with consecutive goals.
Paul Cantabene provided the last one and started a pattern that held through the final 22 minutes. A Carolina score was followed by a Loyola score, a two-goal lead by a one-goal lead. Carolina felt steady danger, Loyola steady frustration.
The Tar Heels withstood the pressure. Colbeck wasn't surprised.
"They're confident to the point of being arrogant," he said. "I think that carries them through difficult times."
Colbeck, who scored three goals to push his team-high total to 42, provided plenty of those. Dennis Goldstein, Colbeck's counterpart for Carolina, managed two goals and two assists -- an average day for him when the Heels needed superb.
They got it -- from Donnelly. The junior midfielder pumped in a career-high four goals, including two in the fourth quarter and one with 4:58 left that ended the pattern with Carolina leading 11-9.
Loyola managed three shots from there, but Carolina goalie Andy Piazza stopped the first two and a desperate attempt by Colbeck went wide as a defender smothered him with 40 seconds left.
Kevin Anderson, the Greyhounds' midfielder-turned-goalie, matched Piazza's totals in just his fifth game at the new position. Each had as many saves as goals allowed.
Anderson had held his own against the nation's top-ranked team and played on even terms with an All-Atlantic Coast Conference goalie, but that was little consolation. He took the loss personally.
"They played real physical, real tough, hard-nosed lacrosse, which was exactly what we expected," he said. "I thought it was a great game.
"If I could have just stopped two more shots, it would have been a different story. When it comes down to it, they just had more goals than we did."