ACC Tournament Season In Full Swing

It’s the spring ACC Tournament season. And many UNC programs have high hopes on conference title trophies and banners.

The No. 2 UNC women’s lacrosse team got the postseason off to a flying start Thursday with an 18-12 victory over Virginia Tech at Klockner Stadium in league quarterfinal action.

The top-seeded Tar Heels held a tenuous 8-7 lead at halftime but scored 10 goals on 14 second-half shots to pull away after the break.

UNC won its sixth game in a row and improved to 7-0 in the ACC quarterfinals all-time while maintaining their perfect mark against Virginia Tech. The Tar Heels have advanced to Friday’s 1 p.m. semifinal against Notre Dame.

The No. 2 UNC men’s lacrosse team gets its ACC Tournament campaign underway Friday night at 8 p.m. at PPL Park in Pennsylvania. Carolina will face No. 4 Syracuse in a rematch of UNC’s thrilling regular season win.

UNC head coach Joe Breschi’s Tar Heels will be searching for their 13th ACC title.

The No. 1 UNC women’s tennis team, meanwhile, is looking to stay undefeated as its get its ACC Tourney matches started down the road at the Cary Tennis Park Friday afternoon.

Tar Heels Round Out Exciting Regular Season

A busy Tar Heel sports weekend secured a couple exhilarating ACC titles, produced heartbreak on the lacrosse field and saw history made on the Chestnut Hill tennis courts.

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Indeed, it was a wild few days for Carolina athletics starting with one for the record books Friday at Boston College.

Brian Kalbas has all the pieces to contend for a national championship (UNC Athletics)

Brian Kalbas has all the pieces to contend for a national championship (UNC Athletics)

The No. 1 Tar Heel women’s tennis team put the finishing touches on an undefeated regular season by beating the Eagles, 5-2, and in the process, became the first ACC school in history to make it through the treacherous league slate unscathed.

Despite Jamie Loeb’s shocking three-set upset at No. 1 singles, Carolina showed off its depth by fighting past the pesky Eagles with commanding victories at No. 2, 3, 4 and 5 singles.

UNC head coach Brian Kalbas says the Tar Heels have been on a mission this season.

“This is the kind of team I don’t think would benefit from a loss going into the postseason. I really think this team benefits from winning and getting that motivation that we could do something special,” Coach Kalbas says.

UNC will now turn its attention to Cary Tennis Center for the start of the ACC Tournament this weekend. The Tar Heels will be the No. 1 seed and heavy favorites to take the title for the fifth time in seven years.

But the sweetness of victory is often born out of the bitterness of defeat. The Carolina men’s lacrosse team suffered the latter Saturday afternoon.

The Tar Heels surrendered three goals in the final 1:15 of the contest to fall short in heartbreaking fashion.

What’s worse, the 15-14 defeat to No. 1 Notre Dame in South Bend handed the ACC regular season championship to the Fighting Irish.

The second-ranked Tar Heels have some time to regroup before meeting Syracuse Friday in the ACC Tournament semifinals at PPL Park at 8 p.m. in Chester, PA.

Their female counterparts, however, were not to be denied the title of champions.

Sammy Jo Tracy gets all fired up (UNC Athletics)

Sammy Jo Tracy gets all fired up (UNC Athletics)

Friday night at Duke’s Koskinen Stadium, the No. 2 UNC women’s lacrosse team downed its hated rival, 12-6, to claim the ACC regular season title for the sixth time and improve to 13-2 overall, 6-1 in league action.

Sammy Jo Tracy wasn’t the only Tar Heel to record a hat trick against the Blue Devils. Aly Messinger joined her teammate in that accomplishment.

Caylee Waters started the game in goal for Carolina and picked up the win thanks to three saves and only giving up four scores.

Head coach Jenny Levy’s Tar Heels open up their ACC Tournament campaign Thursday as the top seeds.

With the regular season now in the books for most spring teams in Chapel Hill, the excitement and promise of the postseason awaits – where dreams become reality.

And these successful Tar Heel players and coaches will be dreaming of hardware – ACC and national championship trophies.

Sankey Guiding Tar Heel Lax To National Glory

For the first time in 23 years, the No. 4 UNC men’s lacrosse team finds itself 3-0 in the ACC and with a 12-1 overall record, the Tar Heels are now hoping to translate that regular-season success into a postseason run.

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In their final regular-season appearance in Chapel Hill, 11 Tar Heel seniors went out on top by downing No. 2 Syracuse in thrilling fashion, 17-15.

But senior Joey Sankey stole the attention of the sellout crowd of over 6,000 at Fetzer Field with his record-breaking performance. With his three goals Saturday, Sankey passed Marcus Holman as the all-time leading scorer in UNC history with 214 points and counting.

Sankey slides one into the net (UNC Athletics)

Sankey slides one into the net (UNC Athletics)

“It’s a great honor, you know, being able to have played with Marcus for two years, and he gave me a lot of those points, so it was a great honor to beat him and to have that record. But I’ve played with so many great players here and without them this wouldn’t be possible at all and without the coaching staff, so you have to credit the whole program, but it’s a huge honor and I’m really thankful for it,” Sankey says.

The victory over 11-time national champion Syracuse could be a watershed moment for the Tar Heels and pay huge dividends down the road.

But Sankey says there’s just something about Alumni Weekend that gets the guys all fired up.

“I mean we’ve been fortunate on Alumni Weekend we’ve had a few great games, you know, I think it was my sophomore year with R.G. Keenan coming down winning in overtime, knocking off number one team Maryland last year, so we’ve been very fortunate on Alumni Weekend. Getting the support at Fetzer today was incredible, playing a great team like Syracuse, so it definitely makes it that much sweeter,” Sankey says.

UNC head coach Joe Breschi has been at the helm of the lacrosse program for seven seasons and guided the Tar Heels to the 2013 ACC title, but Coach Breschi says a win against the Orange is a pretty big deal.

“I thought we did a terrific job across the board, that was a great lacrosse game, brought me back to the 80’s when I was here and early 90’s just renewing that rivalry and the up-and-down pace and tempo was fantastic. We knew it was going to be a back-and-forth type game trying to hold them off, they’re so talented,” says Breschi.

A packed-out Fetzer Field (UNC Athletics)_

A packed-out Fetzer Field (UNC Athletics)_

And hold them off they did. Syracuse used a furious four-goal rally to pull within two at 17-15, but in the end, the UNC defense did just enough to secure the ‘W’.

Coach Breschi credits the senior class for instilling an infectious competitive spirit in the rest of the team.

“Sankey and [Jimmy] Bitter and [Chad] Tutton, just all of them have meant so much to this program and to go out on a win in their last regular season game against a great Syracuse team is fantastic. Just so many positives into the weekend – Alumni Weekend – and to come away with a win is just a special thing,” says Breschi.

Next up for the surging Tar Heels comes a Saturday road trip to South Bend to take on the top-ranked Fighting Irish of Notre Dame in a showdown that will decide the ACC regular-season championship.

Tar Heel Tennis, Lacrosse Blossoming This Spring

Although surrounded by less hype and fanfare than their more famous basketball and football counterparts, UNC’s spring sports teams excel at the highest level year in and year out. 2015 is shaping up to be no exception.

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It’s the rackets and sticks that have been making the loudest noise in Chapel Hill these days.

Out on the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center courts, the Tar Heels are serving up a storm that is led by the ladies.

UNC Women's Tennis Star Jamie Loeb (UNC Athletics)

UNC women’s tennis star Jamie Loeb (UNC Athletics)

The No. 2 UNC women are fresh off an indoor national championship title and are now looking to sweep through the outdoor season. The Tar Heels are unblemished to date, sporting a 23-0 record overall and an 11-0 mark in ACC action.

Led by top 20 national singles players in sophomore duo Jamie Loeb and Hayley Carter, head coach Brian Kalbas’ players are an imposing force to look at across the net.

Coach Kalbas recently eclipsed the 500-win mark in his career, but he credits the talent on the court for achieving that milestone.

“When you win that many matches, it’s because you have good players. They play well and make you look good,” Coach Kalbas says.

Loeb won an individual national title in her maiden season at Carolina, but has been met with more resistance in her second season. Tennis can be a streaky sport.

Coach Kalbas breaks down the strategy in one of Loeb’s most recent tough battles.

“Anytime the girl hit a really good shot, Jamie would cut it off and force her to hit another great shot. The girl wasn’t coming to the net very much. If Jamie would handle her pace, push her back and get on the offense herself, which she started to do in the second and third set – it was really impressive,” Coach Kalbas says.

As for the Tar Heel men, they’ve gone on more of an up-and-down ride this spring. Saddled with a 16-8 record and 5-3 mark in league play, UNC’s No. 2 singles player Ronnie Schneider says the key to postseason success will be getting all the Tar Heels back fully healthy.

Ronnie Schneider strikes a backhand (UNC Athletics)

Ronnie Schneider strikes a backhand (UNC Athletics)

“Our health is probably the most important thing for our team right now. When we put guys on the court, they’re playing well. It’s just that we’ve got to get our top six guys healthy. If we can get healthy now, by the time those two tournaments [ACC and NCAA] hit, we’ll be playing our best tennis,” Schneider says.

Out on the lacrosse field, head coach Joe Breschi has to be pleased with his men’s team thus far. The Tar Heels check in at No. 4 in the national polls and are coming off an impressive road win over No. 6 Virginia in Charlottesville.

Senior Jimmy Bitter, who scored two goals in the win over the Wahoos, says the composure of goalkeeper Kieran Burke gives UNC added confidence.

The men's lacrosse team will hope to repeat 2013's ACC title (Courtesy

The men’s lacrosse team will hope to repeat 2013’s ACC title (Courtesy

“Kieran Burke is an amazing goalie. No matter what point in the game it is, he’s always level-headed,” Bitter says.

Not to be outdone, the Tar Heel women’s lacrosse team is ranked No. 2 nationally and in search of a national title of their own this spring.

In UNC’s most recent win over fellow top-ten member Louisville, Molly Hendrick netted a career-high five goals to spur on the 18-5 rout of the Cardinals.

So the trees and bushes aren’t the only thing blossoming around Chapel Hill right now – so too are the national championship aspirations of Tar Heels on the tennis courts and lacrosse fields.

Overshadowed Spring Sports Share Same Lofty Goals

All eyes are generally fixed on the basketball hardwood this time of year in Chapel Hill, but a litany of other top-notch UNC sports programs are gearing up for their own chances at ACC and national glory.

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The No. 4 UNC women’s tennis team started off its dual match campaign with a pair of victories over in-state foes.

Last weekend, the Tar Heels decisively served past both Elon and Appalachian State, dropping only one match in the process.

The Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center will play host to one of the nation’s top players. Sophomore Jamie Loeb, currently ranked No. 8 in the nation in singles, spent much of her freshman year sitting atop the rankings after a superb 53-4 season individually.

UNC winning ITA Indoor National Title. (UNC Athletics)

UNC winning ITA Indoor National Title. (UNC Athletics)

After falling just short of a national championship in Athens, Georgia a year ago, the Tar Heels, armed with a deep and talented lineup that also includes No. 22 Caroline Price and No. 31 Hayley Carter, could go one better in 2015.

Head coach Brian Kalbas’ Carolina squad will return to action on Jan. 24-25 to face Minnesota and Boston College or LSU.

As for their male counterparts, they’ll be aiming for big things this year as well. The Tar Heel men start off their campaign in the No. 6 position nationally in the preseason rankings released just last week.

UNC returns five starters from last year’s record-breaking team that reached the NCAA quarterfinals. In addition, Carolina also welcomes back senior Esben Hess-Oleson, who sat out last season with an injury, but made significant contributions in previous years.

The Tar Heels return to the courts to open their regular season with home doubleheaders on Jan. 16 and 19.

On the lacrosse field, UNC will yet again be among the nation’s best.

The women’s team begins the year No. 2 in the preseason polls and leads a loaded field in the ACC with five league schools represented in the top seven of the rankings.

With a national championship the goal, it appears the Tar Heels may actually have the talent to do it, with ten UNC women earning spots on the 2015 Face-Off Yearbook preseason All-America team, published by Inside Lacrosse.

UNC Men's Lacrosse claimed the 2013 ACC Championship. (UNC Athletics)

UNC Men’s Lacrosse claimed the 2013 ACC Championship. (UNC Athletics)

As for the men’s lacrosse squad, they check in a few notches lower than the women, but not by much. The Tar Heels were voted as the sixth-best team in the NCAA by the nation’s coaches.

But Carolina will get its chance to prove if it should be placed higher with games against all of the top five-ranked teams looming on its schedule.

Coach Joe Breschi’s team opens its season Feb. 7 at home against Furman.

Although overshadowed by their more famous classmates on the basketball court, at a place like UNC, every sports program seemingly shares the same collective goal – to win a national championship.

Tar Heel Men’s Lacrosse To Meet Familiar Foe In NCAA Opener

The North Carolina men’s lacrosse team, sporting a 10-4 record, will open up the NCAA Tournament against a familiar opponent. The Tar Heels will travel to Big East Conference champion Denver, 14-2 on the season, Saturday to play in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Championship.

The game is slated for a 7:30 p.m. start time Saturday at Barton Stadium on the Denver campus.

Carolina will appear in the NCAA Tournament for the 29th time in the program’s history and for the eighth straight year. The Tar Heels have made the tournament in each of Head Coach Joe Breschi’s six years at the helm.

But to get past the first round of postseason play in 2014 will be a daunting challenge. The Pioneers have won 11 straight games and have not lost since losing at Penn 12-10 on March 1.

UNC is unseeded in the tournament for only the third time in history and the first time since 1998, but the Tar Heels’ four losses this season have come by a combined five goals.

To win Saturday’s nationally televised game on ESPNU, the Tar Heels will have to reverse a trend as the Pioneers have eliminated the Tar Heels in each of the past two NCAA Tournaments.

Tenacious Tar Heel Men’s Lax Fights For ACC Supremacy This Weekend

After starting 0-2 in ACC play, the Carolina men’s lacrosse team was in a world of trouble. But now, the Tar Heels are No. 4 in the nation and will be playing for a potential No. 1 seed in the ACC Tournament when they take on No. 7 Syracuse this Saturday.

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Head Coach Joe Breschi couldn’t say enough positive things about the way his team played in a crucial ACC game against rival Virginia.

“I’m proud of our guys. Virginia is a terrific lacrosse team, top ten in the country. How hard we played for 60 minutes – we’ve been stressing that all year,” Coach Breschi says.

The ACC race is loaded with the ‘who’s who’ of college lacrosse. Each and every game seemingly features two top ten teams facing off.

Senior Frankie Kelly says the Virginia win provided the team with more of a sense of relief than jubilation. Kelly knew it was a must-win scenario.

Coach Breschi agrees. But he says it only makes this weekend’s game at Syracuse inside the Carrier Dome that much bigger.

“This was big. We’re now at 2-2. We feel pretty good with where we’re at. We have to go up to Syracuse now, and they’re fighting for their playoff life in the ACC. There’s a lot in front of us, but I’m just proud of taking another step forward,” Coach Breschi says.

Senior midfielder R.G. Keenan has supplied some timely late-game magic for the Tar Heels in his career. And Keenan will be hoping to hold a few more tricks up his sleeve as his playing days at Chapel Hill come to an end.

And as another lacrosse season winds down, Coach Breschi salutes the impact of Keenan, Kelly and the rest of the senior class.

“We got a great group of 12 seniors. They’ve done a wonderful job all year leading this group. To finish like this is wonderful for them,” Coach Breschi says.

One promising sign for the Tar Heels moving forward is the continued development of the defense. It was UNC’s stingy defense down the stretch that served as a catalyst to the victory over the Cavaliers.

The Tar Heels’ battle with the perennial powerhouse Orange will be a historic one. The two squads haven’t played each other since 1996. The collision is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday and will be nationally televised on ESPNU.

Tar Heel Men’s Lacrosse To Tangle With Johns Hopkins In Top Ten Battle

The No. 5 North Carolina men’s lacrosse team, 7-2 on the year, faces a tough road battle at No. 10 Johns Hopkins, owning a 5-2 record, Saturday afternoon in Baltimore.

Fresh from knocking off previously top-ranked Maryland last weekend, Carolina will bring all sorts of confidence into this meeting with perennial powerhouse Johns Hopkins.

In 2012, UNC took down a top-ranked Johns Hopkins squad. And last season, the Tar Heels won their meeting 11-10 in Chapel Hill. The Blue Jays will no doubt be eager to deliver some payback in 2014.

Johns Hopkins is coming off an 11-10 overtime defeat at the hands of the Virginia Cavaliers.

The Blue Jays lead the all-time series 24-18, but the Tar Heels are gaining ground quickly, winning six of their last seven matchups.

Saturday’s game is schedule to commence at 2 p.m. and will be televised nationally on ESPNU.

No. 3 Tar Heels Geared Up To Host No. 11 Fighting Irish In Lax Battle

The No. 3 Carolina men’s lacrosse team faces its first tough test in the season when it takes on No. 11 Notre Dame Saturday at 12 p.m. at Fetzer Field.

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UNC comes into the pivotal ACC matchup with a 3-0 record while Notre Dame enters the contest at 1-1 on the year.

Senior Frankie Kelly says the offensive ability of junior Joey Sankey is a difference maker for the Tar Heels.

“His skills that he brings to the table with his quickness and stick work – they’re unbelievable. He’s got a great level of toughness to get around the goal to finish shots inside with creativity and also he’s able to ride hard and to make the right plays to organize our offense. He’s been a great leader for us,” Kelly says.

***Listen to the interview with Frankie Kelly***

Kelly says having his little brother, Stephen Kelly, here on the team with him for one season has been a rewarding experience.

“It’s been really special. […] It’s been really cool. I think it’s been cool for my parents. It’s been cool for us. Even this last game against Dartmouth, we each got game balls. We both did pretty well facing off. To get that with him and to be able to give those game balls to our dad for his birthday, which was right around the same time, was really cool,” Kelly says.

Kelly says the Tar Heels understand the daunting task that the Fighting Irish present. But he says he thinks Carolina should be up to the challenge.

“Notre Dame’s a different level. We know that. They’re going to be really good defensively. With Cavanaugh in attack, he’s one of the best players in the country. We’re excited for the challenge. We’re excited to prove to people that our 3-0 start isn’t just the result of an easier schedule to start the year, but that we’re the real deal,” Kelly says.

Tar Heel Men’s Lacrosse Season Slate Finalized

CHAPEL HILL– The Tar Heel men’s lacrosse team, ranked No. 2 and No. 3 in the nation in the two national polls, has released its official 2013 schedule.

Six games will be nationally televised on ESPNU while additional coverage is expected in the coming days.

UNC opens the season Sunday, Feb. 9 on the road at Furman and the home opener will be against Manhattan on Feb 15 at Fetzer Field.

Overall, Carolina will play seven home games and will hit the road for six others. The top four finishers in conference will advance to the ACC Tournament, held in Chester, Pa. on April 25 and 27.

Some of the highlights of the season include matchups with Princeton, Duke, Virginia and Johns Hopkins.

Last year, the Tar Heels went 13-4 and won the ACC Tournament title for the first time since 1996. Expectations are high for the 2014 campaign.



Sun., Feb. 9, at Furman, Greenville, S.C., 2 p.m.

Sat., Feb. 15, Manhattan, Chapel Hill, 1 p.m.

Sat., Feb. 22, Dartmouth, Chapel Hill, 2 p.m.

Sat., March 1, Notre Dame, Chapel Hill, 12 Noon, ESPN3

Fri., March 7, at Princeton, Princeton, N.J., 5:30 p.m., ESPNU

Tues., March 11, Bucknell, Chapel Hill, 4 p.m., ESPN3

Sat., March 15, at Duke, Durham, N.C., 2 p.m., ESPNU

Tues., March 18, Harvard, Chapel Hill, 7 p.m., ESPN3

Sat., March 22, Maryland, Chapel Hill (Kenan Stadium), 2 p.m., ESPNU

Sat., March 29, at Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, Md., 2 p.m., ESPNU

Sat., April 5, Virginia, Chapel Hill, 3 p.m., ESPNU

Sat., April 12, at Syracuse, Syracuse, N.Y., 6 p.m., ESPNU

Fri., April 18, at High Point, High Point, N.C., 7 p.m.


ACC TOURNAMENT (Top 4 qualifers from regular season)

Fri., April 25, Semifinals, ChesterPa.

Sun., April 27, Finals, Chester, Pa.