Southern Showdown: #6 UNC vs. #17 Penn St.

Division I Men's Lacrosse returns to Atlanta, February 11th 2012. Two preseason Division I Top 20 programs will collide in Kennesaw State's new 8,300 seat stadium at 1:00 pm, when the Tar Heels of North Carolina face off against the Nittany Lions of Penn State as part of the 2012 Southern Showdown.

UNC enters the game ranked #6 in the country with its sights set firmly on an NCAA title run this spring after the Tar Heels were bumped from the NCAA opening round in 2011. Penn State starts the 2012 campaign ranked #17 after it's first-ever berth in the CAA tournament last spring.

"This is a program to take very, very seriously." Says UNC head coach Joe Breschi. "They have some great athlete's, and a coaching staffs that knows how to maximize its personnel." PSU has seen dramatic improvement since making Jeff Tambroni head coach (formerly head coach at top-ranked Cornell).

UNC will field a talented roster that contains six players who have been named preseason All-American by Inside Lacrosse Magazine. Sophomore attackman Nicky Galasso has been named a preseason first-team All-America after leading the Heels in scoring with 24 goals and 32 assists in 2011. Junior midfielder Marcus Holman has been named a preseason third-team selection after a 23 goal, five assist campaign last year. Four more Tar Heels were named preseason honorable mention All-American. Also notable is Freshman Jimmy Bitter, the younger brother of the electrifying Billy Bitter. After a solid fall campaign, expect Jimmy to be in the mix early.

Penn State is starting its 99th season of men's lacrosse in Happy Valley after finishing 7-7 last spring. Leading the charge for the Lions offensively will Senior Matthew Mackrides and sophomore Shane Sturgis who led last year's team in points and assists and was named to the CAA All-Rookie Team. Anchoring the defense for Penn State will be sophomore goal tender Austin Kaut, who was 2011 CAA Rookie of the Year. Kaut started 13 games for Penn State in 2011 and earned USILA Honorable Mention All-America honors while leading all of Division I in save percentage.

After being played for two years at McEachern High School, this year's Southern Showdown moves slightly east to the new Kennesaw State Stadium. The facility is a state of the-art, $16.5 million stadium that hosts athletic events for the Division I Owls as well as Atlanta's professional women's soccer franchise, the Atlanta Beat. Opened in May of 2011, the stadium is located just off I-75 east of the Chastain Road Exit, about a mile from the main KSU campus.

In the last Southern Showdown in 2010, Duke and Bucknell, both nationally ranked at the time, squared off in a classic battle that saw the eventual National Champion Blue Devils win 12-11 in overtime. A crowd of almost 7,400 watched the excitement from a snow-covered Cantrell Stadium at McEachern. In 2009, the Southern Showdown was the site of another nail-biter as Notre Dame defeated Loyola 10-9. The Fighting Irish were also part of the inaugural Showdown in 2008 when they crushed Dartmouth 19-7 in a game held at the Lovett School in Atlanta.

Tickets are available online or at Breakaway Lacrosse. Game time is set for 1:00 PM. Gates open at 9:30 am. For more information, including a link to online ticket sales, go to www.thesouthernshowdown.com.

2012-02-07



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