March 10, 2012

UNC Still Searching for Chemistry but Snaps Losing Streak

R.G. Keenan won 12 of 21 draws as North Carolina held off Princeton on Saturday.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com 

by Matt DaSilva | LaxMagazine.com | Related: Live Blog Replay

BALTIMORE — Goalkeeper Steven Rastivo made 16 saves, including seven in the fourth quarter, as eighth-ranked North Carolina survived a flurry of Princeton shots to eke out a 9-8 win over the 14th-ranked Tigers in the Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic opener Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium.

The win snapped a two-game skid for the Tar Heels (5-2), who overhauled their offense to feature sophomore Nicky Galasso, junior Davey Emala and fifth-year senior Jack McBride on attack. Galasso, a Tewaaraton Award candidate who had foot surgery in the offseason, made his first start alongside the two star transfers.

"When you lose two in a row, you've got to make some changes," said North Carolina head coach Joe Breschi.

McBride scored two goals against his former team. Galasso and Emala added a goal apiece. Sophomore midfielder Duncan Hutchins scored two crucial second-half goals on step-down bounce shots and added an assist for the Tar Heels.

But Breschi's comments afterward indicated that North Carolina has yet to concoct the perfect blend.

"It turned out to be a pretty good change—at this point," Breschi said. "We're continuing to evaluate all the time."

While North Carolina's new trio hit its stride early, the Tar Heels' offense fell silent in the second half. Princeton outshot North Carolina 43-22, including a 13-3 advantage in the fourth quarter. The Tar Heels' 19 turnovers led to a bevy of opportunities on which the Tigers could not capitalize.

"That's what they are—they're just shots," said Princeton sophomore midfielder Tom Schreiber. "I'm sure a lot of our guys will be doing extra shooting this week."

Senior attackman Alex Capretta led the Tigers with three goals on 13 shots and added an assist. Schreiber had three assists. Second-line midfielder Kip Orban, a freshman, contributed two first-half goals.

North Carolina built a 6-4 lead in the first half, but Princeton tied it midway through the third quarter on goals by Capretta and sophomore midfielder Jack Strabo.

The Tar Heels responded with two goals in a five-second span. After Hutchins' bounce shot from just inside the restraining line beat Fiorito high, sophomore faceoff man R.G. Keenan (12-for-21) plunged forward and found sophomore midfielder Ryan Creighton for a fast-break finish that put North Carolina up 8-6.

It was almost all Princeton from there, starting with a Capretta goal to pull the Tigers within one with 2:06 left in the third quarter. The Tigers started the fourth quarter with three long possessions, interrupted only by two quick North Carolina turnovers. Several shots sailed high and wide before Princeton finally capitalized with 8:20 remaining, as junior midfielder Tucker Shanley tied the game at 8.

The Tar Heels scored the go-ahead goal on their lone sustained possession of the fourth quarter. Senior Marcus Holman -- who shifted from attack to midfield to compensate for the other personnel moves -- caught an errant Jimmy Dunster shot behind the goal and spun the ball to Hutchins in the right slot. Hutchins scored to put North Carolina up 9-8 with 6:09 left in the fourth quarter.

The Tigers had plenty of opportunities to tie the game, including two long-range attempts by Capretta in the final 1:10, both saved by Rastivo. On Princeton's penultimate possession, Schreiber drew a double team and had a shot blocked. Creighton dove at the endline to give North Carolina the ball back. After another Tar Heels' turnover, the Tigers could not get a shot off as time expired.

"At the end of the day, good shots to good places will go. I wanted to keep shooting," Capretta said. "I had a couple shots in the end [that Rastivo] made two great saves on. He's a fantastic goalie."

Rastivo outdueled Princeton All-American Tyler Fiorito, who finished with just two saves, none after the first quarter. The Tigers have now lost two straight after starting the season 2-0.

"He's going to get hot in the near future," McBride said of his former teammate. "We luckily got him on a day when he wasn't at his best."


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