Injuries Take Toll on North Carolina Defense
TOWSON, Md. -- For all the offensive firepower the North Carolina men's lacrosse team has retained and acquired this offseason, the Tar Heels' hopes to advance to their first final four since 1993 will likely hinge on a patchwork defense. Starting close defensemen Charlie McComas, Jordan Smith and Mark Staines were all inactive Sunday when UNC scrimmaged Ohio State at Calvert Hall College High School.
McComas, the Tar Heels' top returning cover defender, underwent his third shoulder surgery in three years after the 2011 season ended in a 13-6 loss to ACC foe Maryland in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Smith, a sophomore expected to fortify North Carolina's transition game, has compartment syndrome in his calves. Compartment syndrome is the compression of nerves, blood vessels and muscle tissue causing increased pressure in a confined part of the body.
Staines, a menace on the wings and up top as UNC's starting long-stick midfielder last year, will likely replace graduated All-American Ryan Flanagan on close defense. But the senior sat out Sunday with a pulled quadricep.
So the Tar Heels trotted out freshmen Matt Shannon and Jake Bailey, sohpomore Connor Hunt and a slew of other untested defenders in front of starting goalkeeper Steven Rastivo. They struggled early, as Ohio State built a 10-5 lead through three quarters before North Carolina rallied to tie it in the fourth quarter. The game ended unofficially in an 11-11 tie.
Midfielders Ryan Creighton, Duncan Hutchins and Greg McBride, attackman Cam Wood and defenseman Milton Lyles were also held out of Sunday's scrimmage with unspecified injuries.
Tar Heels head coach Joe Breschi chose to look at the bright
"You can't ask for a better situation to be thrown into the first. Playing eight or nine freshmen, from d-middies to poles down there, you gain a lot of experience," he said afterward. "The fall is really for freshmen to gain experience."
While McComas and Smith will likely miss all of fall ball, Staines could return. All three defensemen are expected to be ready when North Carolina starts its 2012 season in Febrauary.
"Oh yeah, absolutely," Breschi said, "and we're looking forward to having them back."