The Navy men's lacrosse team has been predicated on defense first, ground balls second since Richie Meade became coach in 1995. That was supposed to be the case this year, even if standout attackman Ian Dingman had not been dismissed from school in January, Meade said.
And those were the skills that carried the fourth-ranked Midshipmen to a 9-6 victory over No. 6 North Carolina before 4,449 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium yesterday.
The past five meetings between the teams dating back to 2000 each had been decided by one goal; four went to overtime. Yesterday, however, Navy (3-0) held North Carolina to three goals in the first 53 minutes. Senior Chris Pieczonka won 13 of 18 faceoffs, and junior Steve Looney (DeMatha) had four goals and nine ground balls, nearly half of the 20 amassed by the Tar Heels.
Overall, faceoffs helped Navy outshoot North Carolina 43-19.
"I am very happy for my players," Meade said. "Chris Pieczonka won every meaningful faceoff."
North Carolina (1-1) was coming off a season in which it won its first NCAA tournament game since 1993, and entered yesterday with five three-year starters. One of those players, senior attackman Jed Prossner, was a first-team all-American last year.
The Tar Heels scored first yesterday, on a goal by senior Mike McCall with 9 minutes 56 seconds left in the first quarter. Navy tied the game six seconds later on a goal by freshman Nick Mirabito that came on a fast break following a faceoff win by Pieczonka.
North Carolina's second goal came on a score by Prossner with seven minutes left in the first half that made the score 4-2. Five seconds later, however, Looney answered for Navy, again on a fast break started by a clean faceoff win from Pieczonka. Navy extended the lead to 9-3 following a score by senior Ben Horn with 9:19 to play.
The Tar Heels tried just about everything against Pieczonka. They used three faceoff men in the first half, including junior long-stick defender Stephen McElduff. They also tried using two long-sticks on the wings alongside McElduff, an unusual move.
"When you see the other team put a [long-stick defender] on a faceoff," Pieczonka said, "you kind of smile."