Tar Heels take control early, hand No. 2 Terps first defeat

North Carolina's 10-6 win is fourth straight, first over Maryland since 1996

College Lacrosse

March 23, 2003|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Maybe North Carolina caught Maryland looking forward to a Florida trip that was to begin a few hours after the game.

Or maybe the 23 Marylanders - nearly half the roster - playing for the Tar Heels were greatly inspired by the thought of performing at Byrd Stadium.

Or maybe it was just a case of a team needing the game more than the Terrapins.

Whatever it was, 13th-ranked North Carolina threw a wrench into the possibility that No. 1 Virginia and No. 2 Maryland would meet Saturday in a showdown of the top two teams, upsetting the Terps, 10-6, yesterday before 2,182 fans.

The victory was the first in the series for the Tar Heels since 1996, and it came in dominating fashion. Maryland never led as North Carolina controlled the ball nearly all afternoon via faceoffs and avoidance of the Terps' vaunted defensemen and their checks in the offensive zone.

It was the fourth consecutive win by North Carolina since its 1-2 start, which included a 9-8, four-overtime defeat by Navy and a 10-8 setback to Notre Dame.

"After we lost those two, we were going in with our season on the line," said Tar Heels midfielder Austin Garrison, who scored the game's first three goals and finished with four goals and an assist. "We had to prove to ourselves we could pull it out."

Possession was clearly the key for the Tar Heels, who rationed Maryland to less than half its 13.75 goals per game average by simply keeping the ball. North Carolina (5-2, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) had a 15-6 edge in faceoffs, capitalized on six Maryland penalties for four goals and followed up rebounds well at both ends of the field.

In addition, sophomore goalkeeper Paul Spellman (St. Paul's) pitched in with a career-high 25 saves and was especially effective in the second half with 16 stops when Maryland fired 32 of its 47 shots.

"It was one those days when everything looked like a beach ball instead of a golf ball," Spellman said. "This is probably the best game I ever played."

After Maryland (4-1, 1-1) had closed to within 3-2 with two late first-half scores, the Tar Heels erupted for five third-quarter goals and gave Spellman breathing room.

"That was really important," he said. "It gave us time to sit on the lead, work some time off the clock. That was a new feeling. We haven't had time to work with a lead against a team like this."

North Carolina has beaten Duke and Maryland in succession and is staring at more big-time games, with Johns Hopkins and Virginia to follow.

"This was huge. We had to get our team out of the hole," said midfielder Kyle Bell (Loyola). "Coming home was a factor. Most of us watched final fours in this stadium and we have a good fan base here [in Maryland]."

The Terrapins wound up outshooting North Carolina 47-42, but much of that was the result of a hurry-up, second-half assault while trying to rally.

"We didn't have the ball early, didn't have that many chances," said Maryland coach Dave Cottle, whose team had scored at least 12 goals in every previous game.

"They won a lot of faceoffs and that allowed them to set the tempo. And they got too many second and third chances because we gave them too many rebounds."

Said Garrison: "We handled the ball well. Our attackmen ran hard and took care of it. That was huge."

Maryland will play Butler on Tuesday in Boca Raton, Fla., before returning for its clash with Virginia.

North Carolina 1 2 5 2 - 10

Maryland 0 2 2 2 - 6

Goals: UNC-Garrison 4, McCall 2, Will 2, Blair, Bell; M-Walters 2, Mollot, Moran, Hunt, McGlone. Assists: UNC-Blair 4, Bell 2, Garrison, Prossner; M-Mollot 2, Passavia. Saves: UNC-Spelman 25; M-McCormick 15.

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