UNC poses tough test for HPU in men's lacrosse
With a season that has been significantly better than its maiden voyage a year ago, the High Point University men’s lacrosse team will get a chance to see how they stack up against one of the nation’s top teams sails into town on Friday.
The Panthers get their toughest test of the season when they play North Carolina at Vert Stadium at 7 p.m. The Tar Heels, an established power, are ranked in the top 10 in two polls.
HPU is 8-4 and has clinched a share of the Atlantic Sun regular-season title at 4-1 after going 3-12 overall last season, the program’s first.
“They have a dynamic offense and a strong defense and great goalies,” HPU coach Jon Torpey said. “We want to be a top 25 team. So we need to step up and see if we can compete at that level.”
The Tar Heels were ranked in the top five before losing at top-10 Syracuse on Saturday. The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for UNC, which is 9-3 and 2-3 in the ACC. Their other conference losses came at the hands of Duke and Notre Dame.
UNC is averaging 14.27 goals per game while allowing 7.73. They’ve taken 118 more shots than the opposition.
“What I want to see from this game is if we can compete,” Torpey said. “I want to see if we can come out and play at the same speed as North Carolina. I want to see if we can play at a high level and put our best foot forward.
“We’ve done a good job all season of not concentrating on the scoreboard and focusing on the next play, and that’s what we have to do. If we can come out and compete, I’ll be proud of my guys.”
The Panthers have improved this season because the returning players have another year under their belts and they have added another recruiting class.
“It’s been about what I’ve expected,” Torpey said. “I’m amazed by our maturity. We’re getting a good number of minutes out of our young guys. We’re building numbers but we’ve got added experience from the guys who have been here two and three years and from some senior transfers.
“We’ve been resilient. No matter the score, they’ve played at a high level and that’s the sign of maturity.”
HPU has outscored its opponents 119-10 but has 17 fewer shots on goal. But they have 27 more saves thanks in large part to Austin Geisler, who is second nationally with 13.33 saves per game and fifth in save percentage.
HPU’s offense is led by the duo of Dan Lomas and Matt Thistle. Lomas has 34 goals and has scored in 13 straight games. Thistle had 13 goals and 28 assists, 20 of them on Lomas’ goals. They have combined for goals in every game except one.
And, sophomore Jamie Piluso has won 59.3 of his face-off attempts, which leads the conference and is 16th nationally.
“All those guys have been exceptional and Piluso’s face-off percentage is incredible,” Torpey said. “But the guys who have really made us competitive are the guys who don’t have the big numbers and some of the guys who are on the scout team, the guys who are good players and have pushed the other guys to play to their full potential. They helped us go out and achieve our goal of getting better every day.”