BY MICHAEL KELLY
Some nerves were felt Sunday in Chapel Hill as the North Carolina men’s lacrosse team waited to see its draw for the NCAA tournament. After an up-and-down regular season ended with a championship win in the ACC tournament, Luke Goldstock and his teammates had little idea where they’d get sent for their first-round game.
“We really had no idea where we were going,” Goldstock said of the reigning national champions.
Luckily, the senior attackman is a little familiar with where his team got sent. The 2013 Niskayuna High School graduate and the rest of the Tar Heels play Saturday night at UAlbany’s Tom & Mary Casey Stadium, a matchup which thrills Goldstock.
“When it came up that we got UAlbany, I was really pumped,” said Goldstock, who previously had played no closer to home than in Syracuse during his college career. “All my friends were texting me right away.”
One of the first text messages came from Mike Vorgang, Goldstock’s high school coach.
“Home game,” it read.
That homecoming fun starts Friday night for Goldstock, when his North Carolina teammates and coaches will hang out at his family’s house for team dinner. The next night, the expectation is that Goldstock will have a solid patch of personal fans within the sold-out crowd that’s expected Saturday for UAlbany’s first home NCAA tournament game since 2007.
North Carolina head coach Joe Breschi said Goldstock didn’t try to hide his excitement this past Sunday when the selection show announced where the Tar Heels were headed.
“He’s so amped up and excited to have the opportunity to play in front of so many family and friends,” Breschi said. “For Luke, this is so exciting, especially in his senior year.”
It’s been a tremendous four seasons for Goldstock at North Carolina. He helped the Tar Heels win last year’s national championship, a 14-13 overtime win against Maryland in which Goldstock scored four goals. For his career, he’s scored 118 goals and registered 55 assists. His 50 goals during his sophomore season set a single-season UNC record.
“I’m so proud of his success,” Vorgang said, “because you know it came through hard work. He was a great player when he left Niskayuna, but a lot of great players leave high school and don’t get the experience that Luke has.”
“He’s ultra-competitive,” Breschi said. “He’s a guy who can shoot the lights out. He isn’t the fastest guy in the world or the quickest, but he’s understands his own game so well.”
Goldstock’s developed into a leader for the Tar Heels, too. While his role at North Carolina has changed throughout his college career in terms of looking to score vs. looking to distribute, Breschi said Goldstock’s maturity allowed him to handle the changes without missing a beat. The coach thinks that steadiness is why Goldstock’s teammates voted him a captain for his senior season.
“He’s revered by his peers on the team,” Breschi said. “That’s a fantastic reward.”
A year ago, North Carolina found itself wondering if it would make the NCAA tournament it later went on to win. Coming off winning the ACC tournament, Goldstock said this year’s team believes it can make a similar postseason run.
“We’re definitely feeling a lot of positive energy as we get into the playoffs,” Goldstock said. “We’re riding off the steam we started a couple weeks ago.”
If that continues, the chance to start such a NCAA tournament push back in the Capital Region will make it that much sweeter for Goldstock.
“For it to be right in my backyard is even better,” Goldstock said.