FAIRFIELD, CONN. - Ninth-ranked North Carolina used a career-high three goals each from junior midfielder Rob Driscoll and sophomore midfielder Ben Hunt to surge past Fairfield 12-8 in men's lacrosse action Sunday afternoon at Alumni Field on the Fairfield campus. The Tar Heels led from start to finish and they used a 5-0 scoring run in the second quarter to pull away from the Stags for a 9-3 lead at intermission.
Freshman midfielder Sean Burke and sophomore attackman Michael Burns each added a pair of goals for the Tar Heels, who won their first regular-season road game to improve to 1-3 on opponents' fields. And after losing three of their last four games, the Tar Heels improved to 8-4 with the victory, strengthening their chances for an at-large bid to the 2007 NCAA Tournament.
UNC, which started the season 6-1, will now host its final regular-season match of the campaign when the Heels meet Providence next Saturday at 1 p.m. at Fetzer Field. Following that the Heels will meet Duke in the opening road of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament in Durham, N.C. on April 27.
Fairfield fell to 5-4 with the loss to the Tar Heels. The Stags started the season 5-0 but have now lost four in a row. Just last weekend Fairfield had the last shot of the game after staging a second-half rally at No. 6 Georgetown, suffering a disappointing 8-7 loss.
The Tar Heels opened the game with a four-goal run only to see Fairfield score the last three goals of the first quarter to cut the lead to 4-3. UNC then ran off a 5-0 scoring run in the second quarter to build a 9-3 lead at halftime. The biggest Tar Heel lead came with 7:05 to play in the third quarter as Sean Burke's second goal of the game put UNC up 12-5. Although the Tar Heels offense sputtered after that point and did not score in the final 22:05 of the game, Carolina had more than enough goals at that point to win the game. Fairfield scored the final three goals of the game, two of them in the final 2:26 of the match to cut the final margin to 12-8.
UNC, which has now won five in a row against the Stags, opened the scoring on the first of Hunt's three goals just 59 seconds into the match. Michael Burns scored an unassisted goal with 11:30 to play in the first quarter and freshman Sean Delaney had the assist on a goal by Nick Tintle 1:14 later to make the score 3-0. Rob Driscoll, whose three goals and one assist led to a career-high four points, then assisted on freshman Kevin Federico's goal with 8:18 left in the first quarter as Carolina went up 4-0.
The Stags rallied with three goals in the final 5:01 of the first quarter. The goals came from Chris Campbell, Greg Downing and Tim Gazzini with Downing's tally assisted by Chris Manley.
After seeing its lead cut to 4-3, the Tar Heels responded by dominating the second quarter to take a 9-3 halftime lead. Junior middie Brian Connors fed Ben Hunt for his second goal of the match with 13:44 left in the period. Carolina then had a 3-0 scoring burst in a period of just 1:23 to boost its lead to 8-3. Driscoll scored at 8:13, Sean Burke at 7:35 and Burns at 6:50, all unassisted goals, and suddenly the Tar Heel lead was at five goals. Driscoll scored his second unassisted goal of the quarter with 3:53 remaining before the half to make the score 9-3 in favor of the Tar Heels.
Fairfield was the first team on the scoreboard in the second half as Travis Nelson cut the Carolina lead to 9-4 with 14:27 to play. Dirscoll and Hunt then scored their third goals of the game in a span of 41 seconds. Driscoll was assisted by Bobby McAuley with 8:38 to play followed by Hunt's goal off an assist by Bart Wagner with 7:57 left in the period. Greg Downing scored an unassisted goal for the Stags with 7:32 left in the quarter only to see that score matched by Sean Burke 27 seconds after that.
UNC's offense went cold after that but Fairfield was only able to rally back within four goals by the end of the contest. Downing scored with 3:29 left in the third quarter but then neither team scored for over 16 minutes after that. Goals by Mike Bocklet and Chris Ajemian finished the scoring for Fairfield in the final three minutes. Downing was the only multiple goal scorer for the Stags as he finished with three on the day.
Grant Zimmerman had another solid game in goal for UNC as he made 11 saves and allowed only eight goals. Michael Kruger made 13 saves for Fairfield, while allowing 12 goals.
North Carolina's Shane Walterhoefer dominated the face-off circle with 14 wins in 23 attempts. He also led UNC with six ground balls.
UNC outshot the Stags 39-28 and had a 25-18 edge in ground balls. UNC won 15 of 24 face-offs and was successful on 18 of 19 attempts in the clearing game. Neither team scored on the extra-man all day as UNC went 0-for-7 and the Stags were 0-for-3.