March 26, 2011

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Carolina Kids Reverse the College Park Curse

by Gary Lambrecht | LaxMagazine.com


Freshman Nicky Galasso had two goals and four assists and made some highlight passes in North Carolina's 11-6 victory over Maryland, its first in College Park since 2003 and just the Tar Heels' fourth win in the last 18 meetings with the Terps.

© Peyton Williams

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Before Saturday at Byrd Stadium, the University of North Carolina men's lacrosse team had pretty much forgotten what it was like to feel happy leaving the state of Maryland, or anyplace where it had to face the Terrapins.

And after falling behind No. 5-ranked Maryland by four goals early by getting thoroughly outplayed by the Terps, the No. 6-ranked Tar Heels appeared destined to swallow another long, grouchy bus ride back to Chapel Hill.

But the Carolina kids -- namely freshmen attackmen Nicky Galasso and Pat Foster and freshman midfielder Duncan Hutchins -- suddenly put an end to the bleeding and starting inflicting the kind of wounds many have been expecting from one of the nation's most advertised recruiting classes.

When it was over, the Tar Heels had stunned Maryland, 11-6, before 3,176 very cold fans. And Carolina not only reasserted itself as a real threat from the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Tar Heels may have changed the course of their season against an ACC opponent that has heaped its share of misery on them.

While winning for just the fourth time in its last 18 meetings with Maryland, and winning in College Park for the first time since 2003 and only the second time in the last 18 seasons, North Carolina (7-2, 1-1) may have grown up in a way that suggests it must be reckoned with from here on out in 2011.

No one sent that message in stronger terms than the core of first-year players that blew past Maryland. Foster, who made his first start as a replacement for the injured Thomas Wood, recorded the first hat trick of his career. Galasso, who entered the contest as Carolina's leading point-scorer and has started from day one, finished with two goals and four assists and made some highlight passes. Hutchins added one goal and two assists.

In all, Carolina's freshmen scored seven goals, and produced seven of the Tar Heels' eight assists. And they did not make the same mistakes that contributed to North Carolina's losses to Duke and Ohio State earlier in the season.

"They've read the articles, they've heard the [negative] talk, and they've fought through it," UNC coach Joe Breschi said. "After the Ohio State loss [Feb. 19], we just told them you're no longer freshmen. We need them. They're going to have to grow up in a hurry, especially when you come to a place like College Park."

The Tar Heels had every chance to fold. Freshman faceoff specialist sensation R.G. Keenan, who has ranked among the nation's top 10 all year, suffered through a 5-for-19 day against Maryland sophomore Curtis Holmes. Tar Heels senior attackman Billy Bitter did not score a point. The Terps took a 4-0 lead in a dominant first quarter that featured two of senior attackman Grant Catalino's three goals. And Maryland was slicing up the Tar Heels' man-to-man defense.

Then, Maryland's momentum stopped. First, late in the first quarter following Foster's first goal, midfielder John Haus' goal, which would have made it 5-1, was wiped out after a loose-ball push call on Carolina. And between the first and second quarter, Maryland senior attackman Ryan Young was flagged for a stick violation, putting him in the penalty box for a non-releasable, three-minute foul.

The Tar Heels pounced on the chance to get back in the game, and scored twice on goals by Galasso and sophomore attackman Marcus Holman to cut the margin to 4-3 with 11:38 left in the first half. That small run then ballooned into seven unanswered goals by Carolina, which went to a zone defense in the second quarter to take away Maryland's inside game and blunted the Terps' transition game.

"Nothing was going our way early, but it's a 60-minute game," Galasso said. "We had to be ready to step up and start making some plays. That [stick violation] gave us a chance for a turnaround."

The freshmen took over the game. Foster, taking a 25-yard, diagonal pass from Hutchins, tied the game at 4-4 with 7:02 left in the half with a seven-yard shot from the left wing. Hutchins, taking a skip pass across the crease from Galasso, buried a layup to give the Tar Heels their first lead. Freshman midfielder Ryan Creighton and Galasso scored to make it 7-4 early in the third. Junior defenseman Mark Staines then got behind Maryland's defense on the ensuing faceoff win by Keenan and made it 8-4 with 11:20 left in the third.

Maryland junior midfielder Joe Cummings finally broke a scoreless streak of 25:56 for the Terps with 9:44 left in the third, but goals by junior midfielder Jimmy Dunster and Foster made it 10-5 with 11:07 to go, and Carolina was on its way.


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