North Carolina attackmen Jimmy Bitter and Joey Sankey will be known for having two of the greatest statistical careers in UNC lacrosse history.
But after a 14-7 loss to the Maryland Terrapins in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament, the two won’t be known for taking UNC back to a national championship.
“Joey and Jimmy have been a staple of our program for the past four years,” coach Joe Breschi said. “They’d done so much on the field and off the field in terms of what they’ve done for the table.”
From the beginning of the game, sixth-seeded Maryland dominated the third-seeded Tar Heels, who finished the season 13-4. The Terps won all of their one-on-one matchups on offense and kept possession most of the first half.
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Any time UNC got an opportunity at a settled offensive possession, a sloppy turnover gave Maryland the ball right back.
By the end of the half, UNC was facing the largest deficit it had faced all season. The 9-2 score didn’t begin to describe the lopsidedness of the game.
It was only fitting that to end the half, UNC won a faceoff but turned the ball over with seconds left on the clock.
“Obviously they kept us out of our rhythm for longer than we would have liked,” Bitter said. “We had some chances… . Whenever we would score a goal, they would stop that run away by scoring quickly.”
The second half was no better. Winning the faceoff to begin the half, UNC promptly turned the ball over in its own defensive end – just like how they ended the first half.
Not two minutes later, Bryan Cole netted his third goal of the day to push the Terrapins to double digits.
From there, the rest of the game felt like a formality. There’s only so much a team can do when it turns the ball over 13 times and puts that much pressure on its defense by possessing the ball so little.
“There’s no doubt it’s frustrating possessing the ball so little,” Sankey said. “As players we didn’t execute as well as we could have.”
Sankey and Bitter eventually got their numbers. Sankey scored three goals, and Bitter tallied two assists to go with one goal, but they couldn’t get the win – the win that would have cemented their legacies at UNC.
Sankey finished his career as UNC’s leading scorer with 229 points, while Bitter is the third leading scorer in Tar Heel history with 208 points. Bitter and Sankey finished second and third in goal scoring in UNC history with 126 and 125 goals, respectively.
“I’m disappointed for them and the senior class,” Breschi said. “But it doesn’t take away from them and what they’ve done.”
News & Observer news services contributed.