North Carolina beats Maryland in OT for NCAA men's lacrosse title

North Carolina Maryland NCAA men's lacrosse celebration
University of North Carolina attackman Steve Pontrello, from Marlton (St. Augustine Prep), holds aloft the NCAA men's lacrosse championship trophy and celebrates with his teammates after beating the University of Maryland 14-13 in overtime at Lincoln Financial Field Monday. Pontrello scored two goals and added an assist in the win.

Chris Cloutier's heart sank. His potential championship-winning shot was stuffed in the crease. So before he shot a second time, Cloutier was nervous.

The North Carolina attack shot again anyway and wouldn't be denied twice.

The ball got by Maryland goalie Kyle Bernlohr and the game that repeatedly seemed out of the Tar Heels' reach was firmly in their grasp, the same way the NCAA men's lacrosse championship trophy was after a 14-13 overtime win Monday at Lincoln Financial Field.

"I didn't even really think that would actually happen," Cloutier said."I didn't think the game was over. I didn't know how to react."

His goal clinched North Carolina's first national championship in men's lacrosse in 25 years.

Players tied snippets of the net to their commemorative hats. Fans chanted Carolina head coach Joe Breschi's name as he hugged players who passed by. Cloutier signed autographs for children leaning over the railing.

Unseeded North Carolina (12-6) won its first national title since 1991 by toppling the No. 1 seed in a game that included six ties and four lead changes.

This marks the fifth NCAA title in the history of the Tar Heels program and the first time an unseeded team won the championship. The loss left Maryland (17-3) with an 0-9 record in national championship games since 1975.

Cloutier led the way for the Tar Heels with five goals, while Luke Goldstock added four and Steve Pontrello pitched in two. Cloutier's 19 goals in the tournament set an NCAA record.

After the regular season, Carolina wasn't sure if it would even make the tournament. Three weeks later, it is the only team standing.

"It's a new season, new opportunity," Breschi said he told his team once it got into the tournament. And the Tar Heels made the most of it.

Maryland called timeout with 1 minute, 6 seconds remaining in regulation but never got a clean shot off. The Tar Heels' Luke Goldstock, though, was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty with 3.9 seconds left.

The Terrapins started overtime a man up and their best chance to win disappeared when North Carolina goalie Brian Balkam made the first stop of overtime.

On the ensuing Tar Heels possession, Bernlohr matched Balkam by stopping Cloutier, except it wasn't enough. Maryland's Mike McCarney was called for a cross-check and Cloutier ended the game with 1:39 left in overtime.

On Saturday, Cloutier set an NCAA final four record with nine goals. On Monday, he set off a North Carolina celebration that was 25 years in the making.

"What a special, special group it is to be a part of," Breschi said.