CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—The third time was the charm for North Carolina.
With the game tied at 17, the Tar Heels took two shots, but they couldn’t get past Duke sophomore goaltender Kyle Turri. After the missed attempts, North Carolina senior Marcus Holman blasted a shot into the cage with 1:28 remaining, giving the second-seeded Tar Heels an 18-17 victory against the third-seeded Blue Devils Friday evening in the ACC Tournament semifinal at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C. The shootout between the two archrivals was the highest-scoring game in ACC Tournament history.
“They’re terrific players, and they certainly performed under the big lights,” Duke head coach John Danowski said. “Marcus Holman, what can you say, we just think he’s an awesome player. Their guys came up big when they needed to. I’m proud of our guys, and hats off to the Tar Heels.”
In the opening half, North Carolina outshot Duke 31-18 and jumped out to a 13-6 lead. After the Tar Heels scored the first two goals of the third quarter to build a commanding nine-goal advantage, the Blue Devils clawed themselves back into the game with an 8-0 run. Duke’s rally was powered by junior Jordan Wolf, who scored five goals on the evening, and junior Brendan Fowler, who won 25-of-38 draws at the faceoff X.
“We came out flat, and in the first half, [North Carolina] wanted it more,” said Duke senior Josh Offit, who notched a hat trick and two assists. “In the second half, we had fun and played our way. Taking a beating like that you really have to challenge yourself and say, ‘What am I going to do when I get hit in the face like that?’ We took that personally in the first half and wanted to come out swinging in the second half.”
Duke and North Carolina traded goals to start off the contest, which was tied at two at the 7:34 mark. Momentum swayed in the Tar Heels’ favor toward the end of the first quarter, after Holman capitalized on a man-up opportunity off an assist from classmate Davey Emala with 1:11 left in the period. Junior T.J. Kemp followed that up with an unassisted tally in the final second of the quarter to give the Tar Heels a 4-2 advantage going into the second period.
In the second quarter, Holman and sophomore Chad Tutton carried the Tar Heels with three goals apiece. Holman, who garnered All-ACC honors, scored his second goal of the game just over a minute into the period. Duke senior David Lawson, also an All-ACC selection, answered with a tally 37 seconds later to trim the Tar Heels’ advantage to two. Following Lawson’s tally, North Carolina reeled off five unanswered goals, holding the Blue Devils scoreless for a span of 8:20. Trailing 10-3, Duke went on a three-goal run, kicked off by a man-up goal from junior Josh Dionne. The Tar Heels didn’t allow the Blue Devils to build any more momentum before halftime, however, notching the final three tallies of the opening half and heading into the locker room with a 13-6 lead.
“North Carolina was brilliant in the first half,” Danowski said. “They shot lights out.”
The Tar Heels netted back-to-back goals to open the second half. Down by nine tallies, Duke began staging its furious comeback with six unanswered goals, including a pair by Wolf, who was named to the All-ACC squad with Lawson and Fowler.
The Blue Devils extended their run to eight in the final period before Tutton ended North Carolina’s 16:39 scoring drought with 9:52 remaining in the game. But the Tar Heels relinquished their lead after Dionne, Wolf and senior Bill Conners scored, putting Duke ahead for the first time in the contest.
After North Carolina knotted the game at 17, Turri kept the Tar Heels at bay with two clutch saves. But on North Carolina’s third consecutive shot attempt, Holman fired the game-winning goal past Turri. Lawson took an extra-man shot with six seconds remaining on the clock, but a stop by Tar Heel freshman goaltender Kieran Burke dashed the Blue Devils’ hopes of winning their second-straight ACC Championship.
“Overall, it was a great lacrosse game with two explosive offenses going at it,” North Carolina head coach Joe Breschi said. “Though [Burke made] nine saves for the game, [the last save] was certainly the biggest one, to keep the victory.”
The Tar Heels will face fourth-seeded Virginia, who upset top-seeded Maryland 13-6, in the ACC Championship Sunday afternoon. The Blue Devils will travel to Milwaukee, Wis. next weekend for their regular season finale before they prepare for the NCAA Tournament in May.