March 9, 2012

Breschi: Tar Heels Trying to 'Find Right Chemistry'

by Gary Lambrecht |

Nicky Galasso has been slow to recover from offseason foot surgery, a contributing factor to the Tar Heels' ever-changing offensive lineups thus far.
© Peyton Williams

North Carolina men’s lacrosse coach Joe Breschi is managing an array of issues for the No. 8 Tar Heels these days. 

First, there is the variety of lineups Carolina has been forced to employ, due mainly to injuries that have limited the playing time of such players as attackmen Nicky Galasso, Thomas Wood and Pat Foster, midfielders Jack McBride and Duncan Hutchins and defenseman Charlie McComas. Only five players have started every game for the Tar Heels (4-2). 

Then, there is Breschi’s chemistry challenge, as he works in new parts to the potent, Carolina offense. They include Georgetown transfer Davey Emala, freshman Jimmy Bitter and McBride, the graduate student who was arguably one of the top attackmen ever to play at Princeton. 

Finally, there is an early-season, two-game losing streak that has staggered Carolina, which is coming to Baltimore to play Princeton on Saturday in the Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic. The Tar Heels are coming off losses at home to Lehigh and at Penn. 

“We’re pressing a little bit. We’ve been talking to the guys about living up to our expectations instead of everybody else’s,” said Breschi, whose Tar Heels have not been to an NCAA tournament final four since 1993. “We’re trying to find the right chemistry. The best thing is our guys have embraced where we’re fitting them, as we put the best six guys on the field to fit the situation.” 

Breschi added that the Tar Heels – who are averaging 12.5 goals on 33 percent shooting – are also adjusting to opposing teams holding the ball for long stretches to neutralize the Carolina offense. Lehigh did it, first by dominating faceoff play. Penn slowed down the game by feasting on 17 Tar Heels turnovers and milking the clock effectively enough to limit Carolina to 25 shots. 

“In our last three games, there have been at least 10 [opposing] possessions lasting over three minutes. That’s a lot of defense to play,” Breschi said. “That’s not an excuse, but that’s our game right now. A lot of teams are possessing the ball for long periods of time against teams with perceived offensive firepower. It’s become much more of a six-on-six game. We haven’t handled that pressure in some of those circumstances.” 

Starsia Expects Inspired Cornell Team 

Top-ranked Virginia has had no significant health issues as it has stretched its early-season record to 6-0. One of the first things Cavaliers coach Dom Starsia addressed with his players following Tuesday’s 16-10 win against Vermont was the health of Virginia’s next opponent. 

When the Cavs face No. 3 Cornell on Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium, it will face a Big Red team without the remarkable Rob Pannell. The senior attackman and Tewaaraton Award finalist a year ago is expected to miss at least the next month while recovering from surgery to repair a broken bone in his left foot.

Starsia’s message? Do not underestimate the Big Red. 

“[Pannell’s] combination of quickness and strength puts him on a short list of the best attackmen who have ever played the game. But I told our team in the locker room after Tuesday’s game that Rob Pannell just made our game tougher on Saturday,” Starsia said. “We are going to play a very inspired, tough Cornell team. People will smirk at that, but I don’t care. This Cornell team handled Hopkins in the preseason easily without Pannell.” 

UMBC Ready For Next Challenge

In the wake of its stunning, 8-7 upset over No. 4 Maryland on Tuesday night, unranked UMBC (2-2) has another top 5 team to confront, without much time to prepare. The Retrievers will take on second-ranked Johns Hopkins in the final installment of the Face-Off Classic tripleheader at M&T Bank Stadium. UMBC has never beaten the Blue Jays. 

UMBC coach Don Zimmerman, who won three national championships at Hopkins in the 1980s, said the best part about having only three days to prepare for the Blue Jays is that he will not be as much of a factor during the week. 

“I already know this team has a ton of heart and a great attitude,” Zimmerman said. “Winning a game like [the Maryland victory] going into this weekend puts more hop in the players’ step. Coaches worry about a short turnaround much more than players. They just want to play. This prohibits me from over-coaching.” 

UMBC was a painfully young team a year ago, when it got off to a 1-4 start – including lopsided losses to Maryland (15-6 score) and Hopkins (16-5) – and eventually finished 6-7. 

On Saturday, look out for Retrievers sophomore face-off specialist Phil Poe. He handcuffed the Curtis Holmes-led Terps by winning 15 of 19 draws, after Maryland entered the contest having won 61.4 percent of its face-off chances. Another effort like that from Poe could make the Hopkins matchup interesting.

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