With less than a minute left in the third quarter the North Carolina men's lacrosse team had an opportunity to close in on an 8-4 deficit in a game that was slowly slipping away from them.
What proceeded was an awkward cluster of dysfunction.
With the ball in Luke Goldstock's stick at the top of the box, the Tar Heels began passing the ball around with no player seeming to want the ball — and no play called for the offense. As the clock ticked toward zero, UNC struggled to even get a shot off.
The play was but a microcosm of the Tar Heel's 10-7 loss against Syracuse — and their season.
Plagued by sloppy play, turnovers, failed clears and mental mistakes, the Tar Heels showed Friday night in Kennesaw that they have a long way to go if they want to make it to Philadelphia and Championship Weekend.
The Tar Heels eight second half turnovers (13 total) and three failed put immense pressure on an overworked defense, and Goalkeeper Brian Balkam standing on his head with seven third-quarter saves (12 total) was the only thing that kept the game from getting out of hand.
Last weekend UNC found itself in a similar situation against Notre Dame only to comeback and go on a seven goal run sparked by Stephen Kelly's performance at the face-off X. But Kelly's nine wins on 21 face-offs weren't enough to swing momentum in the Tar Heels way this time.
While a small three-goal rally in the second quarter kept Friday's game respectable, Ben Williams' ability to neutralize Kelly in the second half, winning 6-9 face-offs, prevented the Tar Heels from recreating last week's magic.
If the Tar Heels are going to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament, they're going to need to generate offense on a more consistent basis without using Kelly's ability to give them extra possession as a crutch.
In order to do that, coach Joe Breschi and his crew will need to find a way to cut down on unsettlingly dysfunctional situations like the ones they experienced to end the third quarter and numerous other times throughout Friday night's game.