April 1, 2012

North Carolina Flying High After Upset of No. 1 Johns Hopkins

by Chris R. Vaccaro | LaxMagazine.com | Live Blog Replay

Freshman Jimmy Bitter scored a game-high three goals for North Carolina in the Tar Heels' first win over a top-ranked team since 1996.
© Jim O'Connor 

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – In the finale of a lacrosse tripleheader at the Big City Classic, North Carolina saved the best theatre for last, upsetting top-ranked Johns Hopkins, 13-9, at MetLife Stadium.

It marked the first time since April 1996 that North Carolina beat a No. 1 ranked opponent. The Tar Heels had lost their last 11 games against top-ranked schools, including three loses to Hopkins in that stretch.

"We've had a few bumps in the road as we've progressed in the season," said North Carolina coach Joe Breschi. "These guys have stuck together and were patient with the coaching staff and getting the right chemistry to work together. This is a big win for us, no question. I'm real proud and excited for these guys."

The Tar Heels generated a big offensive push in the second quarter thanks to a spark at the faceoff dot from R.G. Keenan. In the first half he won 11-of-14 draws. His performance helped North Carolina (8-3, 1-1 ACC) outshoot the Blue Jays 23-3 during the second stanza. Keenan won 18-of-25 overall.

"R.G. is a terrific player," Breschi said. "The thing he has matured with is where to win it – win it to different spots, that's what makes him dangerous."

Jimmy Bitter led all scorers with three goals. The Tar Heels led 8-4 at halftime and scored four straight goals in the key second quarter. Marcus Holman scored both of his goals in that quarter. Joe Sankey and Thomas Wood also scored in the second.

"It's tough to beat a good team when you don't play well and don't play hard," said Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala. "Carolina came into this game and approached it as a must win and I don't think we gave it our all. You can't dig yourself in a hole like that when you play a good team. I take my hat off to Carolina. They played like a team that needed a win. They played like a hungry team."

Hopkins (8-1), which never led at any point during the game, held North Carolina scoreless in the third quarter and got within 8-7 on goals by Brandon Benn, Lee Coppersmith and Greg Edmonds. Chris Boland, Rob Guida, and Benn all scored two each for Hopkins.

But North Carolina outscored Hopkins, 5-2, in the fourth quarter and had enough insurance goals to capture the victory with ease in the final minutes.

The win follows the Tar Heels' 11-10 victory over Maryland a week earlier. At one point this season, North Carolina had lost three of four games.

"Another five-goal fourth quarter shows the character of these guys," said Breschi. "We have to stay the course and focus on the task at hand. It's been an interesting season. These guys are resilient and stick together through thick and thin. We've had some serious lows and this is certainly one of the highs."

The official attendance for the Big City Classic was 25,934, a record for a regular-season lacrosse event.

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