North Carolina could finally reach its potential under Joe Breschi

North Carolina men's lacrosse coach Joe Breschi, right, talks to Maryland coach John Tillman after a game at Byrd Stadium.
North Carolina men's lacrosse coach Joe Breschi, right, talks to Maryland coach John Tillman after a game at Byrd Stadium. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun)

Since Joe Breschi became North Carolina's coach seven years ago, it seemed only a matter of time before the Tar Heels won a Division I lacrosse championship.

Everything seemed to be in place. A prominent alumnus was running the program. North Carolina's beautiful campus had always been an attraction as far as recruiting, and Breschi, a Loyola High graduate, could get some of the top talent out of Baltimore.


But the Tar Heels could never get any further than the quarterfinal round.

Those fortunes might change now. Going into Saturday night's game in Santa Ana, Calif., against Maryland, the Tar Heels are for real, and so is that offense averaging 16.22 goals a game paced by attackmen Jimmy Bitter (23 goals, 24 assists), Luke Goldstock (30, 11) and Joey Sankey (16, 23).

"I just see a really good team, they're talented, athletic and they're really organized and well-coached," Maryland coach John Tillman said. "So I think for us, we've really got to put together our best game of the year and play 60 minutes of good lacrosse.

"They're really dynamic on offense, they're fast, they're unselfish, they're a team that can shoot the ball very hard and stretch you. But they also throw the ball inside. So they're very unpredictable in that regard."

The big difference for North Carolina is senior leadership. In the past, the Tar Heels didn't always have that because the younger talent always seemed to earn more playing time.

But this senior class is different. Bitter and Sankey are seniors and so is midfielder Chad Tutton (18, 4). The Tar Heels have nine seniors on the roster.

"I know it sounds like a cliche but that leadership is important and it's the major difference for us," Breschi said. "Guys like Bitter and Sankey, that entire senior group, has been through it all and seen a lot. That experience is immeasurable."

There is one other major difference. The Tar Heels added longtime Princeton assistant coach Dave Metzbower as their offensive coordinator during the off season. Metzbower had been at Loyola the past two seasons as its offensive coordinator.

"We've been friends for a long time and his resume speaks for itself," Breschi said. "He won six national championships with Bill Tierney in Princeton and his knowledge and the adjustments he can make on the fly have really helped our offense. "

Co-head coaches rarely works

Maybe it had nothing to do with the recent player suspensions, but UMBC officials seemed to set its women's lacrosse program up for failure when it named co-head coaches in 2012.

That system very seldom works in youth or recreation leagues, much less on a Division I level. In team sports, there should only be one head coach with one philosophy moving in one direction.

Tony Giro is now on leave after the suspensions and Amy Slade has been appointed the sole head coach.

Cost vs. reward


Before parents get into recruiting for college lacrosse, they might want to sit down and determine the cost of investing in the sport compared to the possible scholarship offer their child might receive.

They might find out the cost to play is greater than any offer.

The near maximum scholarship for a lacrosse player at a public, in-state institution is probably around $4,000 per year, and some parents are spending that right now for equipment, travel, hotels, meals, coaches and tryout fees.

A lot of parents still believe lacrosse offers full scholarships, but that is rarely the case. You can't fault the colleges because lacrosse isn't a big money-making sport on most campuses.

Hopkins has Starsia's attention

Johns Hopkins might be 3-4, but the Blue Jays are still averaging 11.86 goals per game. They have also converted on 22 of 47 extra man opportunities and have a shot on goal percentage of .581.

That's pretty impressive. Those numbers certainly have Virginia coach Dom Starsia's attention heading into today's game.

"Hopkins is one of the most-skilled teams in the nation," Starsia said. "Their efficiency on extra man may be the most obvious example but their ability to turn an unsettled opportunity in close quarters into a good shot is a real concern. We are going to have to limit second chances and be very alert away from the ball."

End of an era

I stopped in to watch part of a Boys' Latin game the other day and it was hard to imagine not hearing that loud, screeching, raspy voice bellowing from the Lakers sidelines.

But this will be the final season for Boys' Latin coach Bob Shriver, and every now and then even he takes a look into the future.

"I honestly haven't thought too much about it. Too busy trying to get around all the weather disruptions, spring break and putting the pieces of our team together," said Shriver, who became head coach at the school in 1980 and is nearing career victory No. 500. "I have a feeling that it will be pretty much the same until later in the year as we get into the MIAA schedule and it will be the last time we play Gilman, Loyola, etc.

"We hope to make the playoffs and then it will really get to the end. Every once in a while, my mind will wonder and the recurring thing I think about it is what am I going to do next year when I've been practicing, playingor watching lacrosse for the better part of the last 50 years once Feb. 1 rolls around."

He will definitely go and watch more Penn State games because his son, David, is a Nittany Lions assistant. But first, Shriver wants to get through this season without his retirement becoming a distraction to his team.

"This is their season, their team, and their time and it would be unfortunate for them if my situation became too much of an issue," Shriver said.

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