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.

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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.



Which Gets Upgrades First, Soccer Or Basketball?

CHAPEL HILL – UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham says Fetzer Field is Carolina’s athletic facility most in need of upgrades, but money will likely be the deciding factor when it comes down to which programs see improvement first.

“Basketball is such a primary revenue driver for the department, it’s hard to not think about basketball as a way to potentially pay for additional projects,” Cunningham says. “We’re doing them in tandem, but the one I’d like to complete first would be soccer.”

Fetzer Field is the home of the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams, six track programs, and the men’s and women’s soccer teams. The facility was constructed in 1935 and saw renovations in 1988-90.

The women’s soccer team is by far the most successful Division I program as it has won 22 national titles in the sport’s 34-year history. The Tar Heels are one win away from going back to the College Cup in search of defending their national title.

The Dean E. Smith Center opened January 18, 1986 and has since seen two expansions—one in 1992 and another in 2000. Its current capacity is just less than 22,000.

Cunningham says there are still more questions than answers about what to do with the Smith Center: renovate or rebuild.

“When you begin the discussion of enhancing an existing facility—particularly a building that’s almost 30 years old—at some point, the efficiency of renovation is surpassed by a new building,” Cunningham says. “So, I think we need to look at both. It’s just too early to tell which of those potential options becomes more appealing over time.”

In March, Cunningham told WCHL that changes to the UNC basketball facility were years away and that the discussions were just beginning. Not much has changed in the eight months since word first broke that changes were coming. And, he says he wants to take the next 12 months to get the answers to what route UNC Athletics should take.

Many of the lower-level seats are reserved for season ticket holders and lifetime seat holders. Those lifetime seat holders are already major contributors to the athletic department financially and ones that could greatly benefit a new venue. But, are the Dean Dome lifetime seat holders guaranteed seats in a potential new facility?

“It’s a great question,” Cunningham says. “That is something that we have to take a look at: what are the obligations that the institution has to the donors, and what obligation do we have to new donors? So, that becomes a very significant question and challenge that we will hope to get some answers to over the next 12 months.”

If renovations are the plan of attack in the 27-year-old facility, Cunningham says one addition could be to add a type of luxury suite or club box much like the Blue Zone at Kenan Stadium.

“The suite rights for suites and club seats more than pays for the debt service,” Cunningham says. “In fact, it turns a little bit of revenue back to the general fund for the department. So, if we took that model and applied it to basketball, is there a way to create premium seating that would cover the cost of construction and then increase revenue for the department that would help us fund our other sports.”

Cunningham says that would take some revenue away from individual seats, but may offer the option to gain revenue from the space the seats took up by increased value that square footage would then have.

Cunningham says the bottom line is that no decisions are being made right now but that the athletic department is going to make sure that it can continue to recruit top players, coaches, and contributors.

“How do we preserve one of the best basketball programs in the country and put it in a facility that will continue to attract players and coaches,” Cunningham says. “That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re just trying to sort through what is appropriate right now.”


Four Tar Heels In US National Team Pool

Photo courtesy of GoHeels.com

BALTIMORE - US Lacrosse today announced the 98 players selected to try out for the U.S. Men’s National Team, which will defend its world title at the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Championships on July 10-19, 2014, in Denver, Colo. Tryouts will be held Aug. 30-Sept. 1 at Goucher College in Baltimore, Md.

Four former Tar Heel players are amongst the 98 players invited, including attackmen Billy Bitter and Marcus Holman, midfielder Ben Hunt and defenseman Ryan Flanagan.

A total of 156 players submitted tryout applications, which were considered by a selection committee including current and past U.S. men’s national team coaches and players, as well as current college and professional coaches. U.S. team head coach Richie Meade (Furman University) will oversee the tryout process. Following tryouts, US Lacrosse will announce the 40-player U.S. men’s national team.

Ten players return to try out from the 2010 U.S. men’s national team that won gold with a 12-10 victory over Canada in Manchester, England. Notable returners include 2010 World Championships MVP Paul Rabil, All-World performers Brendan Mundorf and Max Seibald, three-time U.S. team members Ryan Boyle and Matt Striebel, and Ned Crotty, who scored the game-tying and game-winning goals to clinch the world title for the U.S. in Manchester.

The tryout pool by position with professional teams, collegiate alma maters, and previous U.S. team experience noted:


Billy Bitter, LXM PRO, North Carolina
Chris Bocklet, Denver Outlaws, Virginia
Jeremy Boltus, Denver Outlaws, Army
Ryan Boyle, Boston Cannons, Princeton*^+
Ned Crotty, Rochester Rattlers, Duke*
Kevin Cunningham, Hamilton Nationals, Villanova
Matt Danowski, Charlotte Hounds, Duke
Matt Gibson, New York Lizards, Yale
Marcus Holman, Ohio Machine, North Carolina
Eric Law, Denver Outlaws, Denver
Kevin Leveille, Rochester Rattlers, Massachusetts
Brendan Mundorf, Denver Outlaws, UMBC*
Rob Pannell, New York Lizards, Cornell
Jack Rice, Glenelg Golden Eagles (Aus.), Villanova
Ben Rubeor, Chesapeake Bayhawks, Virginia
Steele Stanwick, Ohio Machine, Virginia
Garrett Thul, Hamilton Nationals, Army
Drew Westervelt, Chesapeake Bayhawks, UMBC*
Jordan Wolf, Duke #
Chazz Woodson, Ohio Machine, Brown
Ryan Young, Charlotte Hounds, Maryland


Peter Baum, LXM PRO, Colgate
Stephen Berger, Boston Cannons, Washington College
Sam Bradman, LXM PRO, Salisbury
Steven Brooks, Chesapeake Bayhawks, Syracuse
Kevin Buchanan, Boston Cannons, Ohio State
David Earl, New York Lizards, Notre Dame
Graham Gill, LXM PRO, Navy
Kyle Harrison, LXM PRO, Johns Hopkins
Pat Heim, Boston Cannons, Penn State
Ben Hunt, Chesapeake Bayhawks, North Carolina
Terry Kimener, Denver Outlaws, UMBC
Michael Kimmel, Chesapeake Bayhawks, Johns Hopkins
Cameron Lao-Gosney, Hamilton Nationals, Lehigh
Roman Lao-Gosney, Hamilton Nationals, Lehigh
David Lawson, Rochester Rattlers, Duke
Matt Mackrides, Chesapeake Bayhawks, Penn State
Stephen Peyser, New York Lizards, Johns Hopkins*
Peet Poillon, Charlotte Hounds, UMBC
Paul Rabil, Boston Cannons, Johns Hopkins*
Casey Powell, Chesapeake Bayhawks, Syracuse^%
Mike Sawyer, Charlotte Hounds, Loyola
Tom Schreiber, Princeton #
Max Seibald, New York Lizards, Cornell*
Jeremy Sieverts, Denver Outlaws, Maryland
Drew Snider, Denver Outlaws, Maryland
Mike Stone, Boston Cannons, Middlebury
Matt Striebel, Rochester Rattlers, Princeton*^+

Short-stick defensive midfield

Matt Abbott, Chesapeake Bayhawks, Syracuse
Jake Bernhardt, Ohio Machine, Maryland
Dan Burns, Chesapeake Bayhawks, Maryland
Steve DeNapoli, Rochester Rattlers, Hofstra
Benson Erwin, LXM PRO, Johns Hopkins
Chris LaPierre, Hamilton Nationals, Virginia #
Justin Pennington, Denver Outlaws, Rutgers
John Ranagan, Rochester Rattlers, Johns Hopkins
Chris Schiller, Charlotte Hounds, Penn State*
Kevin Unterstein, New York Lizards, Hofstra


Matt Dolente, Chesapeake Bayhawks, Johns Hopkins
Chris Eck, Boston Cannons, Colgate
Brendan Fowler, Duke #
Greg Gurenlian, New York Lizards, Penn State
Anthony Kelly, Denver Outlaws, Ohio State
Kevin Massa, Bryant #
Mike Poppleton, Hamilton Nationals, Johns Hopkins
Adam Rand, Chesapeake Bayhawks, Stony Brook

Long-stick midfield

Jesse Bernhardt, Chesapeake Bayhawks, Maryland
Matt Bocklet, Denver Outlaws, Johns Hopkins
Brian Farrell, Boston Cannons, Maryland
Kyle Hartzell, Ohio Machine, Salisbury
Brian Karalunas, New York Lizards, Villanova
John LoCascio, Villanova #
Scott Ratliff, Boston Cannons, Loyola
Dillon Roy, Denver Outlaws, Denver


Mitch Belisle, Boston Cannons, Cornell
Brendan Buckley, Boston Cannons, Army
Tucker Durkin, Hamilton Nationals, Johns Hopkins
Barney Ehrmann, Chesapeake Bayhawks, Georgetown
Michael Evans, Chesapeake Bayhawks, Johns Hopkins
Ryan Flanagan, Charlotte Hounds, North Carolina
Joe Fletcher, Loyola #
John Lade, Rochester Rattlers, Syracuse
Matt Lovejoy, Hamilton Nationals, Virginia
Mike Manley, Rochester Rattlers, Duke
Nicky Polanco, Chesapeake Bayhawks, Hofstra
Brett Schmidt, Charlotte Hounds, Maryland
Michael Simon, Chesapeake Bayhawks, Stevenson
Kyle Sweeney, Boston Cannons, Georgetown*
Chad Wiedmaier, Ohio Machine, Princeton
Lee Zink, Denver Outlaws, Maryland


Drew Adams, New York Lizards, Penn State
Jordan Burke, Boston Cannons, Brown
John Galloway, Rochester Rattlers, Syracuse
Adam Ghitelman, Charlotte Hounds, Virginia
Austin Kaut, Penn State #
Brett Queener, Hamilton Nationals, Albany
Jesse Schwartzman, Denver Outlaws, Johns Hopkins
Kip Turner, Chesapeake Bayhawks, Virginia

* 2010 U.S. men’s national team member
^ 2006 U.S. men’s national team member
+ 2002 U.S. men’s national team member
% 1998 U.S. men’s national team member
# Current college player

For more information on the U.S. men’s national team, visit uslacrosse.org/usmen. Follow the team on Facebook at fb.com/uslacrosse, on Twitter and Instagram at @uslacrosse and use #USAMLAX.

The World Champion U.S. Men’s National Teams train and play using best-in-class products provided by Nike (apparel), STX (equipment), Cascade (helmets) and Shock Doctor (mouth guards). Nationwide and Marriott International are official sponsors of Team USA.

About US Lacrosse
US Lacrosse, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, is the national governing body of men’s and women’s lacrosse and the home of the nation’s fastest-growing sport. US Lacrosse has more than 415,000 members in 64 regional chapters across the country. Through responsive and effective leadership, US Lacrosse provides programs and services to inspire participation while protecting the integrity of the sport. Bookmark, like and follow US Lacrosse at uslacrosse.org, fb.com/uslacrosse and @uslacrosse, respectively.


North Carolina Finishes 8th Again In Directors’ Cup

CLEVELAND – North Carolina’s eighth place finish in the Learfield Sports Director’s Cup is the highest finish among ACC schools—a feet which Carolina has accomplished for the 15th time in 20 years. It is also the second year in a row in which the Tar Heels have finished in eighth.

The Directors’ Cup measures each school’s performance in NCAA post-season competition.

The Tar Heels got a big boost from their women’s soccer and women’s lacrosse programs which each got 100 points for their national championships.

UNC Field Hockey finished the season second for 90 points, baseball finished third for 83 points, men’s soccer and women’s tennis both finished fifth for 73 points, and men’s lacrosse got a fifth-place finish for 60 points.

Stanford once again took the Cup for the 19th-straight time. However, second-place Florida was only 16.5 points behind.


UNC Men’s LAX Falls In NCAA Quarterfinals To Denver

INDIANAPOLIS —  UNC men’s lacrosse saw its 10-game winning streak come to an end against Denver, falling 12-11 in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Joey Sankey, Davey Emala and Mark McNeill each scored a pair of goals for UNC while Steve Pontrello, Chad Tutton, Evan Connell, Ryan Kilpatrick and Pat Foster each scored goals.  Jimmy Bitter, Ryan Creighton, Marcus Holman, greg McBride and Sankey each had assists for UNC.

But the fourth-seeded Denver carved away a six-goal Carolina lead and outscored fifth-seeded Heels 5-1 in the fourth quarter.

The Pioneers tied the game at 11-11 with an unassisted goal by Eric Adamson with 1:31 to play.

Denver won the face-off and called a timeout with 1:15 to play. The Pioneers scored on a rebound to win the game with 13.4 seconds left.  Carolina won the following face-off but could not get off a shot, seeing their season end at 13-4.

The Pioneers advance to the NCAA Final 4 and will play top-seeded Syracuse next Saturday in Philadelphia.