CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Rain or shine, artificial turf or grass, on roller skates in a buffalo herd, the conditions don't matter to the North Carolina lacrosse team.
The Tar Heels, No. 1 in The Baltimore Sun rankings, showed off their seasoning, depth and versatility by pounding co-No. 3 Loyola, 17-8, at the Navy AstroTurf Field here. The game was moved from Fetzer Field because of heavy rain that turned to snow as the players shook hands at the end of the only college lacrosse game played east of the Rockies yesterday.
A couple of dozen parents and players from Virginia (postponed at Duke) and McDonogh School (on spring tour) braved the wind, water and 35 degree temperatures to watch what might have been the only outdoor sporting event played in the path of yesterday's blizzard. Conditions were expected to worsen here, and yesterday offered the best chance for Loyola to play the Tar Heels.
"To be honest, we wanted to play on grass today, but it doesn't matter," said attackman Steve Speers, one of 15 North Carolina seniors. "We'll play anybody, anywhere. It's a quarter way through the season, and we're not in tiptop shape yet. It's tough to be up every Saturday with the schedule we face, but we've got depth on our side. If one guy can't do it, someone else can."
Speers was first in line yesterday, as he scored a career-high five goals, matching his total in North Carolina's (5-0) first four victories. The Tar Heels spotted Loyola (1-1) a 2-0 lead in the first two minutes, surged to an 8-6 lead at halftime, and dominated the second half. It was the most goals given up by Dave Cottle's program in a regular-season game since 1987, when the Tar Heels routed the Greyhounds, 17-5.
"They dominated ground balls [62-22] and got five or six goals on second chances after we couldn't clear," said Cottle. "North Carolina was able to dictate a tempo that we're not comfortable with at this time of the season."
It was the second stage of a planned run of revenge for coach Dave Klarmann's Tar Heels. Syracuse, Loyola and defending NCAA champion Princeton were the only teams to beat North Carolina last season, and the Tar Heels beat preseason No. 1 Syracuse March 6 and play at Princeton next Saturday.
"You could tell the guys were ready in the locker room," Speers said. "This is payback for last year. The seniors were only 1-2 against them [Loyola]."
Speers was backed by another attackman from New York, as Mike Acee had four goals and an assist. Freshman Jason Wade (Severn) had his first two college goals, and senior attackman John Webster (Boys' Latin) and do-it-all midfielder Donnie McNichol also scored twice. McNichol led the Tar Heels to a 19-9 advantage in faceoffs.
North Carolina outshot Loyola 59-27, and the score would have been worse except for 18 saves by sophomore goalie Tim McGeeney (North County). The Tar Heels' close defense, led by All-American Alex Martin (Gilman), allowed the Greyhounds little room to operate after the first two minutes, and Loyola's attempts to slow the pace didn't work.
McNichol put the Tar Heels ahead for good at 4-3 with 9:41 left in the first period. Kevin Beach (Mount St. Joseph) scored 44 seconds before halftime to cut North Carolina's lead to 8-6, and it was 9-6 for much of the third quarter, before seven seconds separated goals by Steve Muir and McNichol.
Kevin Anderson (Loyola High) got the faceoff and scored 15 seconds later to cut North Carolina's lead to 11-7 after three periods, but the Tar Heels scored the next five goals, two in extra-man situations.
After its game at Princeton, North Carolina plays Johns Hopkins, Virginia and Duke on successive Saturdays. In order, Loyola gets Syracuse, Brown and Towson State.