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UNC improves to 2-0 with 15-9 win.

Zach Powers had career highs for ground balls and caused turnovers in UNC's win over High Point.
Courtesy GoHeels.com

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - For the second straight game, the University of North Carolina men’s lacrosse team benefitted from a trio of players with hat tricks as the sixth-ranked Tar Heels downed High Point 15-9 on a bitter cold night at Navy Field.

Jimmy Bitter had four goals and two assists and Peyton Klawinski and Chad Tutton each had three goals as the Tar Heels, now 2-0, shot 38.5 percent for the game. High Point, which lost to two-time defending NCAA champion Duke last Saturday 16-13 last Saturday, fell to 1-2 on the campaign. The game was originally scheduled for Fetzer Field at 4 p.m. but wet field conditions forced the game to be played at Navy Field under the lights. A loyal crowd of 612 fans braved the elements to watch an excellent offensive effort by Coach Joe Breschi’s team.

Bitter’s four goals were one short of his career high in a game and his six points also fell one short of his career high. Klawinski, a sophomore from Memphis, registered his first career hat trick and Tutton’s three goals were the most since he tallied four against the Panthers in a 12-8 Tar Heel victory at High Point last April.

In addition to the aforementioned offensive producers, Luke Goldstock had a goal and two assists and Joey Sankey had a goal and an assist. Stephen Kelly, Tate Jozokos and Joe Costigan also tallied goals for the Heels. Matt Thistle led the Panthers with two goals and two assists. Brad James had two scores for the Panthers and five other High Point players scored single goals.

The stat sheet was relatively even in most categories except face-offs and penalties. Jamie Piluso won 20 of 28 face-offs for the Panthers and had a game-high nine ground balls. The Tar Heels also played nearly a quarter of man-down defense during the night, being called for 12 penalties compared to five against the Panthers. High Point scored four of its nine goals on extra-man situations (out of 10 attempts) while UNC was three for four on the EMO.

Most of the rest of the stat sheet looked very even but did not reflect the quality of the shots North Carolina had in the game, converting 15 times on 39 shots and placing 26 of its 39 shots on cage. UNC finished with a 39-36 edge in shots and a 42-39 advantage in ground balls. UNC defenseman Zach Powers had a career high seven ground balls while Austin Pifanki and Jimmy Bitter each had five ground balls for the Heels. Pifani matched his career high in ground balls and Powers had three caused turnovers, matching his career high.

Dan Lomas had six ground balls for High Point but he was limited to 1-for-12 shooting by the Tar Heel defense as Lomas took one-third of the Panthers’ 36 shots. Lomas entered the game as the High Point leading goal scorer with eight. Goalkeeper Austin Geisler went all 60 minutes for the Panthers, making 12 saves, while allowing 15 goals. He had five ground balls. Geisler made just four saves in the first half when the Tar Heels scored nine times. He bounced back to make eight saves in the second half.

Just as it did in its season opener versus Furman last Saturday, UNC split time between its two goalkeepers. Redshirt freshman Brian Balkman played the first half and made seven saves, including five in the second quarter. Duncan Saunders played the second half for Carolina and made four saves.

In the clearing game, UNC went 20 for 24 while High Point, winning so many face-offs, had only eight clearing attempts, being successful on seven. The Panthers committed 13 turnovers while UNC squandered the ball 11 times.

The Tar Heels shot out of the gate, scoring the first two goals of the game and never looked back. The Tar Heels led the whole way and achieved its biggest lead of the game at nine goals at 15-6 with 11:20 left in the match.

After Klawinski and Bitter opened with unassisted goals, High Point drew within a goal at 9:29 of the first quarter by Connor Robinson on the EMO. Carolina then ran off four straight goals to go up 6-1 just 9:46 into the game. All four goals in that run were unassisted. Tate Jozokos had his first career goal at 8:05 and just four seconds later, Stephen Kelly scored after a face-off violation against Piluso. Tutton scored the first of his three goals at 5:43 and just 29 seconds later, Bitter tallied his second goal of the game.

James scored for High Point with 4:21 left in the first quarter but the Tar Heels answered with three goals to take its biggest lead of the first half at 9-2 with 9:19 left before intermission. All three Tar Heel goals in that run were of the assisted variety. Klawinski scored on the man-up from Goldstock with 44 seconds left in the first quarter before Goldstock tallied from Patrick Kelly and Joey Sankey scored off a Bitter assist early in the second period.

High Point scored twice before halftime and Brian Balkam made a key save in the final second of the half to keep UNC’s halftime lead at five goals.

High Point came out and scored two of the first three goals of the second half, getting within four goals with 6:16 left in the period. The Tar Heels weathered the storm, however, and scored five goals in a row to go up 15-6 with 11 plus minutes to play.

Bitter scored off an assist by Sankey to up the lead to 11-6 and then Tutton plucked a ball out of mid-air and scored with two seconds left in the third quarter to make it a six-goal lead.

UNC then scored three times in a span of 2:09 early in the fourth quarter to achieve its biggest lead of the game. Klawinski finished his hat trick off an assist by Bitter at 13:29 on the extra-man. Just 1:01 later, Joe Costigan scored his first goal of the year, assisted by Goldstock. Tutton then scored unassisted at 11:20. High Point would then score three goals in the last 7:22 to finish off the scoring before the Tar Heels ran out the clock.

NEXT UP: UNC will play host to Massachusetts Saturday at 12 noon at Fetzer Field. The Minutemen (0-1) won the last meeting between the two teams by a 12-11 score in the 2013 season in a game played at Kennesaw, Ga.




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