PHILADELPHIA, PA. 5/30, 2016 – Quite simply North Carolina found a way. With 1:39 remaining in overtime UNC sophomore attack Chris Cloutier let a shot go that found the net stick side and gave the Tar Heels the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse title 14 – 13 over the Maryland Terrapins. It was an overtime thriller worthy of being a national championship game played in front of 26,749 at the Linc. UNC became the first unseeded team to win the tournament.
“They were so calm when we were down two,” North Carolina Coach Joe Breschi said. “We kept battling, and that’s the way we’ve done it all year long. We never wavered in our faith and trust and belief that we were going to win.”
Carolina was in a man-up situation at 2:11. As the ball entered the zone midfielder Michael Tagliaferri passed the ball to Cloutier who let go the shot that gave Carolina the national championship.
“It was a play that Tags (Tagliaferri) and I do in practice,” Cloutier said. “When he threw that ball to me and I was hands free, I just thought I could take it and luckily it went in.”
Cloutier, the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament, also set an NCAA record for goals in a tournament scoring 18 goals. The previous record was held by Eric Rugby of Loyola set in 2012. It was his last goal that was by far the most important.
Maryland held a 13 – 11 lead with 7:49 left in regulation on goals by Colin Heacock and Connor Kelly. North Carolina stormed back with goals scored by Luke Goldstock, man-up, and Patrick Kelly within 31 seconds of each other to knot the game at 13 with 3:22 on the clock.
The last two minutes became a scramble as each team looked for the game-winner. The Terps got a chance, but UNC’s goalie Brian Balkam smothered the ball in the crease with 3.9 seconds on the clock. As the Heels looked to make a long pass, Goldstock was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct as an apparent retaliation.
The penalty gave Maryland an one-minute man advantage that they took into overtime. Midfielder Connor Kelly, who scored a team-high 4 goals, sent a shot towards the net, saved by Balkam.
“I knew what better time to make a stop on a man down in overtime to win the national championship?,” said Balkam. “I knew the defense felt the same way. It was a shot that I was wanted to see, lucky to make the save, clear the ball.”
At the 2:11 mark Terps midfielder Mike McCarney was penalized for cross-checking that resulted in the game-winning possession.
The game appeared to be in Maryland’s favor, despite falling behind 4 – 1 early. They won the possessions stats. The Terps outshot the Heels 38 – 32, picked up more ground balls 35 – 24, had 13 clears to 10, and won 19 of 30 face offs. Face off specialist Austin Henningsen won those for Maryland. Goalie Kyle Bernlohr made 9 saves. However, Balkam turned away 13 shots on goal by Maryland, two that would have been game-winners.
“That was just a back and forth battle,” said Maryland Coach John Tillman. “Carolina did a great job of starting off strong and our kids battled back. We certainly had our chances and didn’t get it done.
Cloutier finished with a game-high 5 goals, and Goldstock had 4 tallies. Henry West marked a game-best 4 assists along with 2 goals for the Terps.
North Carolina won the fifth national title in program history, the first since 1991, They also matched the women’s team who captured the title.
They did it by finding a way.
Written By: Glenn Papazian