Coming into 2012, there was no roster more talented than that of the North Carolina Tar Heels.
A sure national championship contender, this was the year for the Heels to take the nation by storm. After adding two All-Star transfers (Georgetown's Davey Emala and Princeton's Jack McBride), the UNC offense seemed unstoppable on paper. The Heels' tremendous talent made them a matchup nightmare for opponents, and gaining veteran experience only made them more formidable.
Well, I guess that's why they play the game. Since starting the season an impressive 4-0, UNC has lost two straight, averaging only seven goals in the losses.
The first loss, a 9-8 decision to Lehigh, was a shocker, but Tuesday's loss to Penn was the icing on the cake.
Penn had lost to Duke and Lehigh to open the 2012 campaign and was looking at the UNC game as an opportunity to get its season back on track. Although a talented team, Penn figured to be facing an angry North Carolina team looking to redeem its previous loss. Instead, Penn hosted a mediocre club, with UNC goalie Steven Rastivo only stopping 37 percent of the shots he faced.
Penn was helped by three goals and an assist from Dan Savage, who now has nine points on the season. John Conneely also added two goals and two assists, raising his season point total to eight.
For North Carolina, Marcus Holman and Jimmy Bitter had two goals apiece. With Penn goalie Brian Feeney only stopping 40 percent of the shots he faced, UNC's offense should have been able to score more than 10 goals. Carolina attackman Nicky Galasso is out with an injury, but its roster has plenty of names to fill that void.
Will UNC recover to make the NCAA Tournament?
As the season rolls along, UNC will be a big story line. The Tar Heels play No. 14 Princeton in the Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic on Saturday in a must-win game. If the Tar Heels beat the Tigers, these two losses will be an afterthought. If the talented Tigers win, however, a daunting ACC schedule will be tough on UNC, which will still be trying to figure things out.
For Penn, a big win against UNC has paved the way for optimism in 2012. As Penn moves forward with Villanova and Princeton in the next two weeks, the Quakers will have the opportunity to revive their season. With wins in its next two games, Penn could have three quality wins at the halfway point. If Penn is able to beat Princeton, an NCAA at-large bid behind Ivy League foe Cornell is a possibility.
Every week in college lacrosse can be special, but next weekend should be a real treat. There are two games that should tell us a lot about the national lacrosse landscape.
To start things off, Princeton will face UNC at 11 a.m. on Saturday in Baltimore. Princeton will face former captain Jack McBride, who is using his final year of eligibility to complete graduate school at UNC. Listen to the game on 103.3 WPRB-FM or WPRB.com
The second big game will pit Virginia against Cornell. With Cornell's Rob Pannell sidelined for six weeks, Virginia should be able to handle business against the Big Red.