EMMITSBURG -- Coaching debuts don't come any more demanding than the one Mount St. Mary's Dan Whelan had yesterday.
Whelan has his predecessor, A.J. Russo, to thank for the pleasure of facing defending NCAA lacrosse champion North Carolina in his first game as Mountaineers coach.
Russo, who resigned as coach in January to devote full energy to his duties as a biology professor, agreed last year to schedule North Carolina so the Tar Heels would have a game before their match Saturday at Syracuse. Carolina wanted another game to break up the trip north.
Although the result was predictable -- a 20-5 Carolina romp -- Whelan didn't consider the day a disaster.
"I told the players afterward I learned a lot and hoped they did, too," said Whelan. "A 15-goal margin is a big one, sure, but they nTC can learn from that. I think they proved to themselves they can play against anybody."
North Carolina had a 6-2 advantage after one quarter and extended it to 18-5 by outscoring the Mount 8-1 in the third quarter. John Webster scored five goals for the Tar Heels and Dan Donnelly had four.
Jeff McBride led the Mount with two and Charlie Horning, the leading scorer in Division I last year with an average of 5.8 goals a game, had one.
In an attempt to contain North Carolina, Whelan used a zone defense. He sensed, correctly, that the Tar Heels wouldn't like it.
"We played pretty well, considering that," North Carolina coach Dave Klarmann said. "The zone is a pain. With Syracuse coming up and knowing they'll come after us man to man, we haven't been practicing zone. It's difficult to play against if you haven't rehearsed."
Horning said the brush with North Carolina was "a good experience." He recalls with relish the game his sophomore year against Syracuse and the Gait twins, Gary and Paul.
Whelan knows from first-hand experience the value of playing a strong schedule. A defenseman, he was on four Division III championship teams at Hobart from 1982-85.