April 23, 2016

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Sixteenth-rated North Carolina spoiled top-rated Notre Dame’s plan for a second straight unbeaten record in Atlantic Coast Conference men’s lacrosse regular-season play by scoring the final seven goals of the game in a 17-15 triumph Saturday afternoon in front of 3,371 fans at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

The Irish (9-2, 3-1 in ACC play) appeared to be in control after a dominating third period in which visiting Notre Dame outscored the Tar Heels 6-1 coming out of an 8-8 halftime tie for a 14-9 advantage after three periods.

Almost five minutes into the final period Irish All-America midfielder Sergio Perkovic scored his fourth goal of the afternoon to give Notre Dame a convincing 15-10 lead. It was all Carolina from there. The Tar Heels strung together seven goals in a 7:29 span, tying the contest at 15 apiece on Shane Simpson’s tally at the 2:56 mark and taking the lead for good six seconds later on a Stephen Kelly score. North Carolina (8-5, 3-1 in ACC play) outshot the Irish 19-5 in the final period, holding Notre Dame without a shot in the final five minutes of the contest.

Perkovic led Notre Dame with his four goals, sophomore Mikey Wynne had three and freshman Ryder Garnsey added a pair. Senior All-America and captain Matt Kavanagh had a goal to go with three assists. Eleven different players had either a goal or an assist for Notre Dame.

The Tar Heel victory meant the Irish and North Carolina shared the top spot in the final ACC regular-season standings-both at 3-1. Carolina’s triumph Saturday means the Heels are the top seed in the ACC Championship that begins Friday-with Notre Dame number two.

“We don’t play a whole lot of 17-15 games and there’s a reason for that,” said Irish coach Kevin Corrigan. “That’s not the way we play. We gave away too many plays in the course of the game to feel good about it. We made too many mental errors in a lot of different situations and we didn’t get stops when we needed them.”

After North Carolina scored in the first 13 seconds, the Irish responded with consecutive goals by Kavanagh, faceoff specialist P.J. Finley and Perkovic for a 3-1 lead less than four minutes into the contest. Then Notre Dame strung together a pair of goals in the final 5.1 seconds-the first by Kyle Trolley and the second a bomb from past midfield by freshman Drew Schantz at the buzzer for a 6-3 lead after one period.

Carolina senior Steve Pontrello, who finished with four goals, had three in the second period to help the Tar Heels tie the match at the break.

Notre Dame’s impressive third period featured a pair of tallies by Wynne, as the Irish put the final four goals of the period on the board for the 14-9 advantage after 45 minutes. Corrigan’s team even managed to chase Carolina freshman goaltender Colin Reder, who was making his first start, after Garnsey’s goal with 4:14 left in the third period made it 12-9 for Notre Dame.

The visitors still appeared to be in control with the five-goal margin after Perkovic’s goal at 10:01 of the final period-but the Tar Heels erased that in short order. Notre Dame finished with 25 shots on goal, but only three in the last period. The Irish were tagged with an uncharacteristic seven minutes in penalties.

Reder allowed 12 goals (with six saves) in nearly 41 minutes, while sophomore Brian Balkam came off the bench for the win, allowing three goals and making four saves. Notre Dame’s Shane Doss finished with a dozen saves.

The 17 goals by North Carolina marked the most allowed by Notre Dame since an 18-17 Irish win over Army to close the 2014 regular season. The game marked the first time since 1983 that the Irish scored at least 15 goals and did not win (Wooster defeated Notre Dame 22-16 that season).

Notre Dame travels to Kennesaw, Georgia, next week for the ACC Championship to be played at Kennesaw State University. The second-seeded Irish meet third-seeded Duke at 8:30 p.m. EDT in the second semifinal on ESPNU. Notre Dame defeated Duke 8-6 in South Bend on April 10 in the teams’ regular-season meeting. The Notre Dame-Duke winner will play the North Carolina-Syracuse winner at noon EDT Sunday in the title match.

— by John Heisler, senior associate athletics director

Score by Period 1 2 3 4 F #1 Notre Dame (9-2, 3-1 ACC) 6 2 6 1 15 #16 North Carolina (8-5, 3-1 ACC) 3 5 1 8 17

North Carolina Scoring:
Goals: Steve Pontrello 4, Luke Goldstock 4, Patrick Kelly 3, Michael Tagliaferro 2, Chris Cloutier 1, Jake Matthai 1, Shane Simpson 1, Stephen Kelly 1
Assists: Steve Pontrello 2, Luke Goldstock 2, Shane Simpson 2, Brian Cannon 1, Chris Cloutier 1, Stephen Kelly 1, Michael Tagliaferro 1

Notre Dame Scoring:
Goals: Sergio Perkovic 4, Mikey Wynne 3, Ryder Garnsey 2, Matt Kavanagh 1, P.J. Finley 1, Drew Schantz 1, Kyle Trolley 1, Trevor Brosco 1, Timmy Phillips 1
Assists: Matt Kavanagh 3, Ryder Garnsey 2, Cole Riccardi 1, Brendan Collins 1

North Carolina: Colin Reder, 40:46, 12 goals against, 6 saves; Brian Balkam, W, 19:14 3 goals against, 4 saves
Notre Dame: Shane Doss, L, 60:00, 17 goals against, 12 saves