While 8-3 is a solid record, Virginia fans are by no means comfortable. Two of Virginia lacrosse's losses are in the new super-ACC, falling to Notre Dame and Maryland on the road. With the new format for the ACC Tournament, Virginia needs to win today and next week against Duke (yikes) to give them a better shot at staying out of the Saturday consolation game and a chance at the automatic qualifier for the NCAA Tournament.
Today at 3pm on ESPNU, the No.9 Cavaliers take on the No.5 Tar Heels in Chapel Hill. North Carolina also has a 1-2 record in the ACC with a win over Maryland and losses to Duke and Notre Dame.
The Heels are led by the sneaky Joey Sankey with 42 points on 24 goals and 18 assists. Jimmy Bitter, Chad Tutton, and Pat Foster all pose as offensive threats for UNC, with a combined 47 goals. As a team, they average an impressive 14.6 goals per game while their stingy defense only gives up 7.5.
The two biggest keys to the game (stop me if you've heard this before) will be goalie play and faceoffs. UNC goalie Kieran Burke is saving 57 percent of shots faced, while face off specialist Stephen Kelly is winning at a 61% clip. For the Hoos, first year Matt Barrett has come on hot as of late, but his season save percentage is still low at 47%. As a team, the Hoos are winning 53% at the faceoff X, but have not won them in long stretches in their losses (see last week at Maryland). Possession will be the biggest battle because both teams have potent offenses that will wear the defenses down.
Speaking of offense, Virginia is led by fourth year Mark Cockerton with 30 goals, but second year James Pannell is right behind him with 30 of his own. Cockerton was held scoreless last week at Maryland, which ended a streak of 24 straight games with at least one goal.
Fourth year midfielder Rob Emery was named one of ten finalists for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, so go here and vote!