Head games. That's what they'll play Saturday when UMBC invades North Carolina in an NCAA lacrosse tournament first-round contest.
Peet Poillon, UMBC's top scorer, played last year for Ohio State. Joe Breschi (now at North Carolina) coached him there. Now they will square off in a battle of pupil and mentor in a game that promises all the intrigue of a chess match on legs.
Can the North Carolina coach read Poillon's thoughts? Breschi smiled.
"I'm going to try," he said.
Does Poillon fear his game is at risk?
"Coach Breschi may know me, but he doesn't know our other five guys," the Retrievers senior said. "It's a six-man offense, so he can't just scheme around me."
A midfielder, Poillon has scored 44 points to lead UMBC (12-3). A transfer from Ohio State, he left the Buckeyes last summer, a month after Breschi quit to take the reins at North Carolina. The coach's departure, Poillon said, spurred his exit.
Neither thought their paths would cross so soon.
"It's a pretty intriguing matchup," Poillon said. "Coach Breschi was a great role model; I have a lot of respect for him, both on and off the field. He taught me everything I know about defense.
"I had hoped to be a graduate assistant under him [at Ohio State], but obviously that won't happen."
Breschi, too, has thrived in his first year at North Carolina, leading the Tar Heels (11-5) to the No. 6 seed in the Division I tournament. A North Carolina graduate, he knows well what to expect from UMBC's potent midfield of Poillon, Alex Hopmann and Kyle Wimer, who've combined for 123 points.
"I've never seen three middies lead their team in scoring before," Breschi said. "Half of [UMBC's] 600 shots have come from that midfield. They can shoot, but we'll try to throw some different looks at them to make them adjust to us."
As for the student-teacher showdown, the North Carolina coach knows that simply poking around in Poillon's mind won't stop the 5-foot-9 scorer from Pittsburgh.
"Peet has great hands, vision and stick skills," Breschi said. "He has a quick release where he sort of snaps the ball off on his shots.
"We'll throw some wrinkles at him to make him think. I know his tendencies. It's just a matter of whether we can stop him."
umbc (12-3) @ north carolina (11-5)
What: : NCAA tournament first-round game
Site: : Fetzer Field, Chapel Hill, N.C.
Date and time: : Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
Outlook: : The Retrievers have not fared well against the Tar Heels, losing 11 of 17 meetings and four of the past six. North Carolina has one of the country's most prolific offenses, a unit that ranks fourth in the nation with a 12.4 goals-per-game average. The Tar Heels are powered by 30-goal scorers in sophomore Bill Bitter (38), senior Bart Wagner (33) and junior Sean Delaney (32). Freshman James Petracca has filled in admirably for senior goalie Grant Zimmerman (torn anterior cruciate ligament in knee). UMBC's attack of Ryan Smith, Chris Jones and Matt Latham combined for 12 goals and five assists in the team's run to the America East tournament crown. But the Retrievers need a big effort from the midfield of Peet Poillon, Alex Hopmann and Kyle Wimer.