Maryland men's lacrosse notched another ranked opponent in its victory belt Saturday, dominating North Carolina 11-8 for its fourth straight win.
For some reason, North Carolina decided Maryland's 2015 goal leader Matt Rambo wasn't important enough to pay special attention to. Unfortunately, that defensive plan is probably never going to work. Rambo finished with four goals, with two of those goals coming off completely open looks in transition.
But the story of the day was midfielder Connor Kelly, netting a hat trick and two assists to be involved in five of Maryland's six first-half goals. The sophomore out of Easton, CT., finished the game with three goals and three assists.
Attackman Chris Cloutier scored his 22nd goal of the season to give the Tar Heels the early lead, but their jubilation was short-lived. Kelly immediately connected for an uncontested goal, and moments later broke his defenders' ankles to rip another shot behind UNC's Brian Balkam.
Colin Heacock, Matt Rambo and Bryan Cole got some easy looks at the net to give the Terps a 6-4 lead by halftime, making the Tar Heels high-volume offense look sluggish and unready for the Terps' suffocating defense.
And Maryland never missed a beat, with Heacock scoring an acrobatic goal in the midst of falling down to start the third quarter. Once the Terps extended their lead to four goals with ten minutes to play, it was clear John Tillman's squad was not going to leave the driver's seat, coasting their way to huge home win.
Three Things to Know
1. Maryland's Defense is unfair. North Carolina boasts one of the nation's best offenses, which nets roughly 14 goals a contest. Against Maryland's defense, it looked like boys playing amongst men. The Tar Heels only scored either in transition, or playing advantage (one of which UNC was up two men after a double penalty). From half-field, North Carolina took bad shots all game and simply couldn't penetrate the Terps' lockdown defense. Teams under John Tillman are known for having exceptional defenses, but this year seems to be a completely different animal.
2. Connor Kelly was a nice change of pace. Maryland usually gets the majority of its output from Rambo or Heacock, but this game was the Connor Kelly show. The midfielder had just five goals and four assists on the season coming into the matchup, but exploded for an offensive clinic against UNC. Look for the young midfielder to use this as a springboard to be the go-to third option on a team needing one behind Rambo and Heacock.
3. Lax can be something for Terp fans to look forward to. With Maryland men's basketball going down in the Sweet 16 to Kansas, a lot of Terps fans might feel like the world came crashing down. What does one root for in March when your collegiate team just got eliminated from the Tournament? It's time to shift the focus from basketball to lacrosse, who are now 5-2 on the season with wins over Albany, Princeton and North Carolina. Last year this program made it to the NCAA Finals, and you know these players won't rest until they get back.