Desperate for a win in Saturday's opening game of the Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic, No. 12 North Carolina took the field at M&T Bank Stadium sporting a completely revamped starting attack.
The results were anything but overwhelming, but still enough to help the Tar Heels emerge with a 9-8 win over No. 20 Princeton and avoid their first three-game losing streak since 2006.
"When you lose two in a row, you've got to make some changes," Tar Heels coach Joe Breschi said. "Coming off two losses, these guys kept their composure and kept fighting. They really stayed focused throughout the week to try and get better, and that's what they did."
After Princeton's Alex Capretta and Tucker Shanley scored consecutive goals to tie the game at 8, North Carolina sophomore Duncan Hutchins put his team ahead for good with 6:09 left, taking a pass from fellow Gilman alumnus Marcus Holman, standing behind the goal, and scoring on a low shot from 10 yards in front.
The win was the first for North Carolina (5-2) in six all-time games in an NFL stadium. More importantly, it ended a week-long stretch in which the Tar Heels, considered prior to this season as a serious contender for the national title, lost to unranked Lehigh and Penn.
This one could've easily continued that string, with Princeton (2-2) outshooting Carolina, 43-22, and holding a major advantage in time of possession. But most of the Tigers' shots traveled head-high, making for easy pickings for Tar Heels goalie Steven Rastivo (16 saves).
"When we shoot the ball 43 times, we have to score more than eight goals," Princeton coach Chris Bates said. "At critical times, I thought we didn't take as quality a shot as we needed. That's something that we focused on, and I think struggled with."
"I'm sure a lot of our guys will be doing a lot of extra shooting this week," Tigers midfielder Tom Schreiber (three assists) said.
Despite taking fewer shots, North Carolina's offense proved effective when it had the ball. The Tar Heels lined up an entirely new starting attack, led by Jack McBride, a grad student in his final season of eligibility after four years at Princeton.
McBride finished with a pair of goals, and sophomore Nicky Galasso and junior Davey Emala (Gilman) scored one each. McBride said he talked with teammates at length during the week about how to attack Princeton goalie Tyler Fiorito (McDonogh), whom he shared the field with three years.
"I told them, 'If we don't take good shots, he's definitely going to eat them up,'" McBride said. "I think that, while we're still working on getting more shots on the goal … the quality of shots we took were really, really good."
Trailing, 2-1, North Carolina took control with three goals in a span of 2:32. The Tar Heels started the stretch late in the first quarter, forcing a turnover at the defensive end and turning it into a fast break, with midfielder Greg McBride (Gilman) feeding attackman Nicky Glasso for the easy score.
They then took their first lead when midfieler R.G. Keenan (Boys' Latin) picked up a loose ball following a scrum off the faceoff, then quickly fed Emala, who was alone in front.
When Jack McBride finished off the flurry 59 seconds into the second quarter, North Carolina had built its lead to 4-2.
Later, tied at 6, North Carolina's Hutchins and Ryan Creighton scored back-to-back goals in a span of 5 seconds midway through the third quarter.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun