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Pontrello, Pifani help UNC rally past Maryland, 14-13, in OT for national title

Monday, 30th May 2016

Categories Boy's/Men's, College, Posted 5/30/16
By Russ Atkinson and From Press Release

Chris Cloutier scored at the 1:39 mark of overtime off an assist from Michael Tagliaferri to give the North Carolina men’s lacrosse team a 14-13 win over Maryland in the NCAA championship game at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday afternoon. The Tar Heels captured their first national championship since 1991.

Tar Heel goalie Brian Balkam made a big overtime save while the unseeded Tar Heels (12-6) were playing a man down shortly before Cloutier’s game-winner, allowing Carolina to survive a point-blank Terrapin shot attempt that would have won the first NCAA title in over four decades for top-seeded Marylad (17-3).

UNC captures its fifth NCAA title, joining 1981, 1982, 1986 and 1991. The Tar Heels are now 5-1 in NCAA championship games.

Steve Pontrello (St. Augustine Prep) had two goals and an assist and Austin Pifani (Abington) had a groundball and a caused turnover to lead the UNC defense. Charles Kelly (Malvern Prep) won 3 of 7 face-offs.

Philly guys (from left) Jake Peden,Charles Kelly, Austin Pifani, Coin Reder and assistant coach davvid Metzbower celebrate the NCAA championship

Philly guys (from left) Jake Peden (Downingtown East), Charles Kelly (Malvern Prep), Austin Pifani (Abington), Colin Reder (Episcopal Academy) and assistant coach Davvid Metzbower (former Malvern Prep coach) celebrate the NCAA championship (Photo by Rene Schleicher)

For Maryland, Matt Rambo (La Salle) had three goals and three assists. At times, Rambo was defended by Pifani, his best friend and fellow Duke’s Lacrosse Club coach.

“It’s an awesome feeling; I cant describe it,” Pifani said. “This place (The Linc) has a special place in my heart. Playing at Abington High School, playing for Duke’s Lacrosse, playing for the Wet Bandits: I mean I grew up here, I dreamed of being an NFL player on the Eagles’ field and now I get to win a national championship?

“I wouldn’t have thought about this in my wildest dreams!”

Pifani admitted it was tough to think about Rambo’s disappointment.

“I love the kid; If I’m not winning this I want my best friend to win it,” he said. “He’s a brother to me and his parents are family to me.”

Pontrello said winning it in Philly just makes it more special.

“It’s so special, I love this place,” he said. “I am a huge Eagles fan, I live only 20 minutes away and you can’t ask for anything better. I am so happy and so proud of this program. It’s a great win.”

Carolina is the first school to win the men’s and women’s lacrosse NCAA championships in the same year since Princeton in 1994. The UNC women’s team beat Maryland, 13-7, in Sunday’s national title game in Chester.

Cloutier finished with five goals on seven shots for the Tar Heels. Luke Goldstock scored four goals. Brian Cannon scored twice and Patrick Kelly had a goal and two assists. Tagliaferri, William McBride and Timmy Kelly had assists.

Connor Kelly led the Terrapins with four goals, while Hery West had two goals and four assists.

Carolina was down, 13-11, with just under eight minutes to play, but Goldstock and Patrick Kelly tied it.

“The game really had its ups and downs,” said Pifani. “We trusted in coach (Joe) Breschi and all the coaches. They did such a tremendous job preparing us mentally.”

Rambo said it was tough to take the loss.

Steve Pontrello (St. Augustine Prep) - Photo by Rene Schleicher)

Steve Pontrello (St. Augustine Prep) – Photo by Rene Schleicher)

“It’s super tough right now,” said Rambo. “It’s tough every time you lose, even if it’s the beginning of February. But this is a tough loss seeing so many guys putting in so much effort and putting their heart out. We’re a family and it’s tough seeing your brothers to the right and left of you cry and be upset. It’s super emotional and tough for everyone.

“Coach (Tillman) was just so proud of us the way we fought all year. He didn’t have a fairy tale speech for us; he was proud of how we bounced back and how much our team has come together.

“They fought hard, we fought hard. That’s what a championship game with the two best teams in the country going at it. Sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your way.”

UNC’s assistant coach, David Metzbower, the former coach at Malvern Prep, said his team showed its heart

“We definitely played the underdog up,” said Metzbower. “(Maryland) Coach (John) Tillman said it the other day that we were riding the hot seat. We sneaked in and took advantage of everything we could get.

“I Love Philadelphia. If I didn’t like Chapel Hill a little more, I am glad I am back in Philadelphia to win this thing.”

UNC celebratres its National Championship (Photo by Rene Schleicher)

UNC celebratres its National Championship (Photo by Rene Schleicher)

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