No. 1 Tar Heels Down UVa to Claim First ACC Title in 17 Years

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - North Carolina's long wait ended Sunday afternoon at Kenan Stadium. Packing a lethal offensive punch for the second straight tournament game and holding at least a two-goal lead throughout the final 32 minutes, the second-seeded Tar Heels turned back fourth-seeded Virginia, 16-13, in the title game of the Atlantic Coast Conference Men's Lacrosse Championship.

In the process, North Carolina's players presented their head coach, Joe Breschi, his 150th career win. A partisan Carolina crowd was present at Kenan Stadium to celebrate UNC's first title in nearly two decades.

Led by Marcus Holman's tournament MVP performance, Davey Emala's UNC career-high goal total, Chad Tutton's second straight hat trick and Kieran Burke's 17 saves, the Tar Heels won their ninth straight game and finished the regular season at 12-3. Virginia's season came to an end as the Cavaliers fell to 7-8 on the season.

Holman did not score a goal in the championship game, settling for five assists. His school record 29-game goal-scoring streak came to an end in the process but it is likely the senior attackman from Baltimore, Md., cares about the end of that streak. His five points against the Cavaliers lifted his career total to 207 and broke the school record of 204 set 40 years ago by Bruce Ledwith (1970-73).

Holman was one of five UNC players on the All-Tournament team as he was joined by Chad Tutton, who had tricks in both tournament matches, R.G. Keenan, Davey Emala and Kieran Burke.

A crowd of 4,001 saw the Tar Heels (12-3) claim their 12th ACC title overall and their eighth since the league began determining its champion via a tournament format in 1989. But North Carolina's last ACC championship prior to Sunday had come in 1996 when Marcus Holman was four years old.

"We've had five years of working hard, recruiting and trying to bring in the best people," said Joe Breschi, the Tar Heels' head coach since 2009. "You hear (our players) talking about being together and how tight they are. They believe in each other and they continue to battle for one another, and that's what makes them great."

North Carolina, which enhanced its chances of receiving the No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament, weathered a determined effort by the Cavaliers (7-8), who needed a victory on Sunday to earn NCAA eligibility. Matt White hammered home an ACC Championship single-game record-tying seven goals including five in the second half and Nick O'Reilly set the Championship single-game record for assists with seven.

But Carolina's balance helped it carry the day. Emala led the Tar Heels with four goals and an assist. That equaled the most goals in a game for the Georgetown transfer since he suited up in a UNC uniform in 2012. It was the 13th career hat trick for Emala. Tutton had three goals, earning his second hat trick of the tournament, and pushing his career total to seven. Jimmy Bitter, Steve Pontrello and R.G. Keenan each scored twice for Carolina. The two goals for Pontrello matched his career high and Keenan set a career high with his two goals. Keenan won 18 of 32 face-offs in the match and had a game-high 11 ground balls, just one shy of his career high total in a match.

UNC also got goals from Pat Foster, Spencer Parks and Ryan Creighton. Joe Sankey had three assists for Carolina.

"We really played about as well as we can play this weekend," Breschi said. "This is a confident bunch. I heard Marcus talking (to reporters) about always being the underdog, and we kind of like that. We've been underdogs since I arrived, for sure. But we don't listen to any of that."

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