Fall Snapshot: North Carolina Tar Heels

(Photo Courtesy of North Carolina Athletics)

Welcome to the Fall Snapshot series. Throughout the fall I will be taking an early look at all 75 DI men’s college lacrosse teams and giving a snapshot of where each is heading into the 2023 season.

Head Coach: Joe Breschi (15th year, 2008-Present)

North Carolina 2022 Record: 8-6 (1-5 ACC)

Key Departures: Chris Gray (A), Nicky Solomon (A), Cole Herbert (M), Jacob Kelly (A), Sean Morris (D), Zac Tucci (FO)

Key Returners: Lance Tillman (M), Henry Schertzinger (M), Matt Wright (LSM), Alex Breschi (SSDM), Connor Maher (SSDM), Paul Barton (D), Collin Krieg (G), Andrew Tyeryear (FO)

Transfer Additions: Logan McGovern (A), Sean Goldsmith (A), Harry Welford (M), Griffin Gallagher (M), Andrew Geppert (D), JT Rosselle (LSM)

North Carolina was one of the teams that underperformed the most in 2022. Starting the year as a preseason top 10 team and a year removed from a Championship Weekend appearance, expectations were high for the Tar Heels despite the loss of its entire first midfield and the best defenseman in college lacrosse.

Struggles highlighted the Tar Heels 2022 campaign as they ended the year with an 8-6 (1-5 ACC) record, out of the NCAA Tournament, and nowhere to be found in the final top 20 rankings. And through the final five weeks of the season, the Tar Heels went 1-4 with its only win coming over Syracuse, 14-13.

Simply put, North Carolina wasn’t able to replace its most significant losses or find answers where it needed them the most. Now, in 2023, all eyes will be on the Tar Heels to see if they can indeed get back on track.

Burning Questions

What Does The Attack Unit Look Like?

Last season, North Carolina was tasked with having to replace its entire starting midfield. This time, it’s the attack unit that will have to be replaced. Tewarraton Finalist and NCAA all-time points leader Chris Gray is gone and takes with him his 80 points (48G/32A) from last season. Nicky Solomon (20G/17A) and Jacob Kelly (20G/15A) are also gone. The three starting attackmen combined for 152 points (88 goals) last season and accounted for 54% of the Tar Heels’ scoring output. Gray alone accounted for 29% of that output.

Filling the holes left open in this attack line, and specifically the role of Gray had, is going to be a monumental task for this North Carolina team. Whether or not the Tar Heels can, at least, produce at a high enough level at the position to win games consistently will be the question that dominates the storyline of this team in 2023.

The Tar Heels have added a pair of transfer attackmen who will be expected to help fill that void immediately. Logan McGovern comes in from Bryant, where he put up 54 points off 19 goals and 35 assists as a junior this past spring. Sean Goldsmith is a grad transfer from Mercer and had 35 goals and 16 assists for 51 points in 2022. Those two will likely help form the core around which this attack unit will be built. The Tar Heels also bring in highly-touted freshman Dominic Pietramala (Boy’s Latin, Md.) at the position.

Can The Defense Improve?

North Carolina ranked 52nd in DI in scoring defense as they allowed 12.86 goals per game last season. Twice (vs Ohio State, vs Duke) the Tar Heels allowed 18-plus goals. Defense was the this team’s greatest weakness last season and the one area where the greatest amount of improvement will be needed if they want to get back on track.

LSM Matt Wright (27GB/12CT) was the team’s top producing pole last season as its top LSM. Tyler Schwarz (14GB/4CT) was the secondary LSM as a freshman and also returns, as well as SSDMs Alex Breschi (18GB/8CT) and Conner Maher (43GB/8CT). That group was productive and highlighted an otherwise bad and injury-impacted defense. The same can be said for goalie Collin Krieg. He followed up a stellar freshman campaign with a 2022 season that saw him make 182 saves with a 50.3% save percentage.

At close, the Tar Heels saw a multitude of players come in and out of the lineup all season, in part due to injuries. Paul Barton (22GB/7CT), Blake Gable (19GB/5CT), Sean Morris (8GB/5CT), Maxwell Cooney (3GB/4CT), and Collin Loughead (6GB/3CT) were all primary pieces of that rotation. Barton started six games as a freshman while Gable started 10 as a sophomore. Cooney played in the first four games and started the first three before missing the rest of the season due to injury whole Loughead played in nine games with five starts. Morris is the only one not returning as he has exhausted his eligibility. In addition to that group who returns, the Tar Heels have also brought a pair of graduate transfer poles in Andrew Geppert from Brown and JT Roselle from Marist, who was the MAAC LSM of The Year in 2022.

Will The Faceoff Situation Swing Back Up?

During the 2021 season, the duo of Zach Tucci and Andrew Tyeryar proved to be one of the better one-two punches in college lacrosse. As a team, the Tar Heels went 53% at the dot while Tucci and Tyeryar went Tucci went 56.8% and 51.9% individually, ending the year ranked 22nd and 32nd in faceoff win percentage.

This past season, North Carolina went 51.5% as a team at the dot while Tucci went 119-for-219 (54.3%) while Tyeryar went 59-for-115 (51.3%). Both top faceoff men battled injury at times. Graham Schwartz and Chase Mullins, who has since left the program, also saw limited action. While the overall numbers don’t show a massive drop, but the story against ACC competition is different. The Tar Heels went 44% at the dot in ACC play and failed to go 50% or over against any ACC team.

Tyeryar, and Schwartz are all back in 2023 and will be joined by a pair of freshman in Colin Hannigan (Springfield, Pa.) and George Kalos (Hough, N.C.).

Potential Breakout Player

Dewey Egan, Attack, Sophomore

Egan arrived in Chapel Hill last fall as a highly-touted recruit and made an impact in the limited action he saw. Egan played in nine games and started each of the last three contests, ending the season with five goals and one assists. Now a Sophomore and with many holes to fill on that Carolina offense, Egan could provide a solid answer.

Freshman Class

North Carolina brings in another very strong group of freshman that could make an immediate impact with its 2022 recruiting class. Headlining the group is attackman Dominic Pietramala (Boy’s Latin,Md.) who is rated as a five-star and ranked No. 2 in the class by Inside Lacrosse. Attackman James Matan (Gonzaga, D.C.) and midfielder Tayden Bultman (Ridgefield, Conn.) are also five-star recruits, per IL.

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