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North Carolina men's lacrosse aiming for more than just a Final Four appearance

North Carolina men's lacrosse aiming for more than just a Final Four appearance
North Carolina will play Loyola this weekend in the national lacrosse semifinals. (Brian Schneider / HANDOUT)

There was probably a huge amount of relief and elation surrounding North Carolina after the lacrosse team punched its first ticket to the NCAA tournament semifinals since 1993 with a 13-9 upset of No. 3 seed Notre Dame in a quarterfinal on Sunday at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.

But if observers think the Tar Heels (10-6) are simply happy to make an appearance against No. 7 seed Loyola Maryland (14-3) on Saturday at 12 p.m. at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, goalkeeper Brian Balkam said he and his teammates don't share that sentiment.

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"We're not satisfied with just making it to the Final Four," the redshirt sophomore said. "Obviously, it's a huge deal for our program, the coaches and the players. But when we came out here at the start of January, our goal wasn't just to make the Final Four, it was to win the whole thing. So everyone has that mentality and knows that going into this weekend. Our whole motto this week has been, don't be satisfied, keep going, and keep pushing. Why not win two more games and really make history?"

Coincidentally, the NCAA is planning to recognize this weekend the 25th anniversary of the 1991 North Carolina team that captured the national championship. That turned out to be the last time the school won the NCAA title.

There is some concern that the current Tar Heels squad expended a large amount of energy and emotion in the quarterfinal win against Notre Dame. But coach Joe Breschi, a Baltimore native and Loyola Blakefield graduate, said the coaches and players addressed the issue Monday.

"We're very open with the team and talked about distractions and all the things that come with this weekend, but also to enjoy it and embrace it and really focus," Breschi said Tuesday during a conference call arranged by the NCAA. "I said, 'Look, we need two hours of focus a day when it comes to the practice field and another hour in the afternoon with film.' The exciting part is getting there, but the best part is being able to participate in it and give it everything you have. So we did address it. It was an emotional weekend for sure, probably most of all for me than them. But in the same vein, I think they understand that there's only four of us standing, and the opportunity that's in front of us isn't a given after two-plus decades of not being there. So I've encouraged them to take advantage of it."

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