March 27, 2010

Bitter Injury Makes Hero of Holman in UNC Win

by Jonathan Jones | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online | Game Blog

Freshman Marcus Holman scored four goals Saturday in place of injured Billy Bitter, as No. 3 North Carolina beat eNo. 4 Maryland, 9-7.

© Gray Quetti

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Saturday’s men's lacrosse game between Maryland and North Carolina was one of numbers. The No. 3 Tar Heels were without their No. 1 player while playing against the No. 4 Terrapins in a clash between two ACC foes.

But with the 9-7 UNC victory, the only number that still mattered was zero — symbolizing UNC’s undefeated 9-0 record.

The Tar Heels trumped their top-five opponent sans Billy Bitter, a junior All-American whom Breschi said is the most dynamic player in Division I lacrosse. He sustained a leg injury and the team doctor would not clear him to play just 20 minutes before the first faceoff.

Doing his best Bitter impression was freshman Marcus Holman, who made the fourth collegiate start of his career. Holman racked up a game-high four goals, tying his career high, and added an assist.

“Four goals in a game like this for a freshman? That’s just outstanding,” UNC head coach Joe Breschi said.

Bitter found out about the injury on Wednesday, and Breschi said there was a five percent chance he would play on Saturday. He said benching Bitter was the right thing to do for his health.

The All-American spoke to his replacement before the game to make sure he was prepared for rivalry game.

“I asked him ‘Are you nervous at all?’ He said he wasn’t,” Bitter said. “I just knew right away he was gonna have a big game and I’m just so happy for him.”

Maryland (6-1, 1-1 ACC) wasted no time getting on the board as senior midfielder Dean Hart scored the first goal of the game at the 13:49 mark to take the early advantage.

But UNC (9-0, 2-0) would rack up four consecutive goals to take a commanding three-point lead. Cryder DiPietro scored on an assist from Holman, who would go on to score the next goal for the Tar Heels.

Jimmy Dunster took a shot that was saved but Maryland could not collect, and Dunster tossed to Holman, who was one-on-one with goalie Brian Phipps. Holman scored his 11th goal of the year with a juke move high and went low.

But the 4-1 lead got too comfortable for the Tar Heels, and Maryland scored three straight off the sticks of Owen Blye, Adam Sear and Ryan Young to tie the game at half.

Again UNC scored in a three-point bunch, including a shot by co-captain Sean DeLaney at the 12:15 mark of the third quarter. On an assist from Thomas Wood, DeLaney found the back of the net just as he absorbed a hit from Max Schmidt. DeLaney did not return to the contest.

“DeLaney’s such a tough kid, he got up and said, ‘Did I score? Did I score?,’” Holman said. “Losing our two top scorers and probably our two best players, everyone had to dig deep and make the extra plays.”

Maryland still had some fight left and posted three goals in the final frame, but Holman’s final goal with 2:31 remaining sealed the match and sent the Terrapins back to College Park with their first loss of the season.

Maryland head coach Dave Cottle could only describe Holman’s play as “opportunistic.”

“They probably weren’t gonna get four goals out of Bitter, so give him credit,” Cottle said. “The kid stepped in.”

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