03/07/2013 10:03 AM ET
Former champs meet as UNC faces Princeton
ACC clashes with Ivy in matchup with 10 combined titles
By Eamon McAnaney / SNY.tv
Of Princeton's Tom Schreiber, UNC head coach Joe Breschi said, "If he is not the best player in the country, I don't know who is." (Princeton Athletics)

Only nine schools have won the national championship in men's lacrosse. On Saturday, two programs that have captured a combined 10 titles will collide when No. 11 North Carolina hosts No. 5 Princeton.

"It's going to be huge," said UNC head coach Joe Breschi. "It's another top-five opponent for us, so it's huge. You don't want to put too much emphasis on one game, but we've had opportunities and let them get away, so the emotions will be high."

The Tar Heels are one of the bigger enigmas so far this season. The talented club has blown three-goal leads in both of its losses -- both by one goal -- to UMass and Notre Dame.

In South Bend, Ind., Carolina gave up a game tying goal with 11.9 seconds left in regulation and then fell in the third overtime.

"We need to keep our foot on the gas pedal," said Breschi. "We have to stick to the plan and not deviate from how we got the leads. We are getting better, even though the record doesn't reflect it, but we can't think about the record."

Although Carolina is searching for answers, the Tigers took a major step forward last week with a statement-delivering 11-8 road win at Johns Hopkins.

"It was huge for the entire team," said All-American midfielder Tom Schreiber. "We were kind of flying under the radar in the preseason, so the win at Hopkins has done wonders for our confidence."

Schreiber has been on everyone's radar since his high school days at St. Anthony's on Long Island. He has lived up to the hype with the Tigers.

"He's ridiculous," said Breschi. "If he is not the best player in the country, I don't know who is. Maybe Rob Pannell, but Schreiber does it all. He's so dynamic, snapping off shots lefty, righty and stretching the D. You have to commit 1 1/2 guys to him."

The scary thing for Breschi and other Princeton opponents is the Princeton players around Schreiber -- such as freshmen Jake Froccaro and Ryan Ambler -- appear to be ready for prime-time lacrosse.

"It's been a very pleasant surprise," said Princeton head coach Chris Bates. "We knew they were good, but you are never sure what you'll get when the lights come on. We pose matchup problems and move the ball well."

Schreiber agreed: "This year's team makes it tough to key on one guy because we have so many different weapons. It's a little bit easier for me because I don't really have a lot of pressure on me to dodge -- I can be more of a finisher."

There is also youth and inexperience on the defensive end for Princeton, and Bates knows that group will be tested in Chapel Hill.

"Their offense is scary fast, and they create a lot from the attack with Jimmy Bitter and Joey Sankey," Bates said. "Marcus Holman is as good as anybody. He's a gamer with a tremendous lacrosse IQ, so we have to be ready for them to go hard to the cage."

Although it is still a week away from St. Patrick's Day, the stakes will be high as the Tar Heels do not want to fall under .500, and the Tigers want to pick up their 1st win over UNC since 1998.

"Our guys are hungry," said Bates. "You can just sense it that our guys want to go get this one."

"I like where we are because we're weathered," said Breschi. "We've had battles with Fairfield, UMass and Notre Dame, so we've seen this already. I am just glad we get them at Fetzer."

Eamon McAnaney is an on-air host for SNY and a contributor to SNY.tv. Follow him on Twitter @EamonMcAnaney.
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