NCAA Men's Lacrosse: No. 11 UNC Hosts No. 5 Princeton Saturday
Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports
The Princeton Tigers will head to Chapel Hill, North Carolina for a big-time matchup against the 11th-ranked Tar Heels of UNC.
The Heels are coming off of a heartbreaking triple-overtime loss to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, one of the best regular-season games in recent memory.
The Tar Heels, now 2-2 on the year, bring a veteran offense into the matchup featuring a lethal first attack line of Marcus Holman, Jimmy Bitter and Joey Sankey. There is no question that UNC can score with the best teams in the country, which will keep a young Princeton defenses tested throughout the contest.
Princeton is coming off of a successful week in which the Tigers defeated the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays at Homewood Field, and rallied to beat a talented Villanova squad Tuesday night at home. The Tigers have been lead by junior midfielder Tom Schreiber and senior attacker Jeff Froccaro in addition to solid play in goal from freshman Matt O'Conner.
Faceoffs have plagued Princeton thus far in 2013, with Jeff Froccaro often moving up from attack late in games to save the day at the faceoff X. Senior Bobby Lucas, sophomore Justin Murphy and freshman Jake Froccaro have all attempted to get on a roll taking faceoffs, but the consistency has been lacking to say the least.
North Carolina goalkeeper Kieran Burke enters this weekend with a 53 percent save rate, proving to be reliable between the pipes thus far. He directs a defense that is giving up right around 10 goals per game, a number that head coach Joe Breschi would like to see come down against Princeton.
Along with Schreiber and the elder Froccaro, Jeff, Princeton has gotten great contributions from Ryan Ambler, Mike MacDonald and Kip Orban. The versatility of the offense combined with Schreiber's demand for a quick double-team has proven to be a matchup problem for opposing defenders.
Who will win Saturday's game?
Look for Princeton to try to turn the faceoffs into ground-ball battles on Saturday. They have been giving up too many clean faceoff wins to opponents which have lead to scoring streaks and momentum swings. With a talented transition team in UNC posing a threat every time they touch the ball, time-of-possession becomes even more important for the Tigers this weekend.
UNC will try to put points up early on Tiger freshman Matt O'Conner, who comes into the game with a 53 percent save rate of his own. The Tigers had trouble with the quickness of many Villanova midfielders Tuesday night, so look for UNC to try to attack the teeth of the defense with quick dodging and ball movement.
This is a true barometer game for both squads, who look to keep up with the pace of the best teams in the nation. A win for either program would be a quality W on the year, proving valuable as both the ACC and Ivy League are tough conferences top to bottom.
Prediction: A close game throughout, Tom Schreiber connects with Make MacDonald on the crease to win it late. Tigers 11, UNC 10.
The game can be seen live on UNC's Athletic website, and also heard on Princeton Radio WPRB 103.3 FM. Faceoff is set for Noon ET.
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