Unheralded and unseeded, some questioned if the University of North Carolina even deserved a spot in the field for the 2016 NCAA Men’s Division I Lacrosse Tournament. Those who questioned were proven wrong.
With a strong contingent of Baltimore area players, the Tar Heels went on a historic run. Shortly after falling to Syracuse in the ACC Tournament, the Tar Heels went to Milwaukee and survived a tight 10-9 battle with Marquette, then knocked off Notre Dame in Columbus, OH, defeated Loyola Maryland in the national semifinals and stunned top-ranked Maryland, 14-13, in overtime to win last Monday’s National Championship Game in Philadelphia.
“It was an absolute incredible experience. It still is all sinking in but we are all definitely so happy and excited. There were so many historic moments both on and off the field this year that made us the team we were and allowed us to go on that run,” said junior midfielder Stephen Kelly, a former Calvert hall star who was also named Honorable Mention All-American this week. “Playing with not only a bunch of Calvert Hall guys but a bunch of Baltimore guys as well was just an awesome added bonus to the whole experience.”
The connection is particularly close for Kelly, who plays with cousins Patrick (Sr. A/MF) and Timmy Kelly (Fr. A/MF). All three are Calvert Hall alums and each had a prominent roll in the championship game, with Patrick having a goal and two assists, Timmy providing an assist and Stephen winning 8 draws. In addition, fellow Cardinal Evan Connell, a senior defenseman, also played in the contest for UNC squad.
Not to be outdone by Calvert Hall, Gilman School had five former players on the Tar Heel sideline. The group includes Jack Halpert (Fr. D), Jake Matthai (Sr. MF), Andy Matthews (Fr. A), William McBride (So. MF) and Kevin Walker (Fr. D), with McBride coming up with an assist and Matthai getting a ground-ball.
Brining the total for former players from the talent rich MIAA on the UNC team to 11 were Severn’s Brett Bedard (Jr. MF) and St. Paul’s Alex McGovern (Fr. MF).
“Our team is so close and that helped us so much for our success. We hope this is just the beginning of a new era of championship lacrosse for UNC,” said Stephen Kelly. “The coaches, the players, the supporting staff and everyone involved with the program is so special and a lot us are already so excited for next year.”