CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Not even monsoon-like conditions could slow down the University of Richmond men’s lacrosse team's stifling defense.
The Spiders entered Monday’s showdown with the reigning national champions UNC allowing the fewest goals per game in the country.
That suffocating defense was on display once again as Richmond used a fourth-quarter surge to take down the Tar Heels, 6-5, in Chapel Hill. It marks the second-straight season that the Spiders have taken down a top-10 ACC opponent on the road.
"Tonight was a total team effort," head coach Dan Chemotti said. "We made a lot of mistakes, but the character of this team took over and we continued to fight and focus on our fundamentals during crunch time."
Senior netminder Benny Pugh continues to show why he’s one of the best in the country, finishing the night with 11 saves in his fifth double-digit save performance of the season. He also grabbed three critical ground balls on the night.
“As a team, we couldn’t be happier, but we’re not surprised,” Pugh said. “We know that we work hard enough to compete with the top teams in the country. It shows on nights like tonight when we execute our game plan and focus for a full 60 minutes.”
Much like they did against Duke, the Spiders jumped out to an early advantage with freshman Tyler Shoults getting on the board first, firing off a beautiful goal on a pass from Dean Roseman to give Richmond a 1-0 lead.
Three minutes later, Roseman found Lee, who rifled home the Spiders’ second goal to push the lead to 2-0 nine minutes into the contest.
The Tar Heels responded with two goals in the final five minutes of the first quarter and two more in the second to grab a 4-2 lead.
With time winding down in the first half, Lee found a cutting Cunningham, who fired home his first goal of the day to send Richmond into halftime within a goal of the Tar Heels at 4-3.
Both defenses took center stage in the third, with the lone goal coming from UNC five minutes into the half. That score gave North Carolins a 5-3 advantage into the final quarter.
That’s when the Spiders’ rally began.
Less than three minutes later, J.P. Forester found Cunningham, who lasered a shot past the UNC goalie to even the score at 5-5 with 11:35 to play.
With the momentum clearly on Richmond’s side, Lee capitalized, firing home a shot into the top right corner of the net to give the Spiders a 6-5 lead.
The Spiders defense then went to work, allowing the Tar Heels to take just three shots in the final five minutes of the contest and holding off a last-minute rally to seal the win over the reigning national champions.
"North Carolina has great players, and they are superbly coached," Chemotti said. "They're an exceptional team, and they forced us to raise our level today. Personally, I don't have the vocabulary to articulate how proud I am of our players and assistant coaches."
The Spiders move to 6-1 with the win, matching the best start in program history that was set last season.
Richmond returns to conference play this weekend when the team travels to Jacksonville on Saturday for an 11 a.m. contest.