The University of North Carolina Tar Heels became number one in the men’s college lacrosse world after defeating the Maryland University Terrapins in the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Championship game May 30 at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Tar Heels topped the number-one seeded lacrosse powerhouse of Maryland, 14-13. The victory was North Carolina’s first NCAA Championship title in 25 years.
The Tar Heels finished their regular season with a 12-6 record and entered the NCAA tournament as an unseeded team. They became the first unseeded team in tournament history to win the championship.
Describing the contest as exciting would be an understatement. The top team in the country was decided in a nail-biting matchup that entered into overtime. With four minutes of regulation remaining, the Tar Heels staged a major, impressive comeback to take the title. North Carolina tied up the game, after Maryland had a two-goal advantage, and then went on to win it all in overtime.
Chris Cloutier scored the winning overtime goal off a feed from midfielder Michael Taglieferri to lift the Tar Heels to a 14-13 win. After the game, Cloutier was awarded the most outstanding player honor for the tournament.
Immediately following the goal, a sea of thrilled and ecstatic North Carolina players and coaches overtook the field.
“I just can’t believe it,” head coach, Joe Breschi said.
Although the Tar Heels did not have a great regular season, the team dominated in the playoffs.
“When the playoffs came around, it was all just one big incline,” Cloutier explained.
As for the Terrapins, their last national championship title was earned in 1975. They have made it to nine consecutive NCAA final appearances, but have come up empty. This season, Maryland finished their regular season with an impressive 17-3 record.
The Tar Heels took an early 4-0 lead in the contest; however, it quickly disappeared as Maryland took the lead toward the end of the match. In the final minutes of the game, Luke Goldstock and Patrick Kelly scored within seconds of each other to tie it up at 13 and bring the game to overtime where Cloutier registered a goal to make history.
The victory was extremely meaningful for North Carolina after all Breschi has been through with the loss of his son in 2004. In addition, members of the 1991 championship team were honored at halftime and the women’s team earned the national title the day before. Prior to the Tar Heels doing so, only the 1994 Princeton men’s and women’s lacrosse teams had won the national title in the same season.
Cloutier summed up winning the national championship and all the emotions in three simple words: “There’s nothing better.”