UNC And UNC Wilmington To Push Rivalry To Next Level: Semifinals Preview

UNC and UNC Wilmington face off for the fifth time this season, but this time with the biggest stakes by far: a spot in the National Final.

UNC-Wilmington Seamen.
Photo by Nick Lindeke — UltiPhotos.com

At the Queen City Tune Up, North Carolina beat UNC Wilmington by seven points. A month later, at Easterns, Darkside won by six. One month after that at Carolina Conference Championships, Wilmington narrowed the gap to 15-12.

By the time Regionals rolled around, UNC Wilmington wasn’t little brother anymore. The Seamen took down UNC 15-10 with a stellar offensive performance.

That was almost a month ago. UNC Wilmington is even better than that now.

The Seamen proved that in quarterfinals against Pittsburgh, a game in which Wilmington assistant coach Tully Beatty called his team, “The classic underdog, the classic David. The Rebel Army in the woods.” On the back of some huge deep shots and their trademark defensive grit, UNCW sent a goliath Pitt squad packing in the upset of the Nationals.

North Carolina is no slouch either. They’ve got one loss at this year’s tournament but it came when Darkside had the pool in hand. Ben Snell, Jonathan Nethercutt, and USAU Player of the Year, Christian Johnson, will get theirs.

These guys know each other well. This is the kind of deep-seated rivalry that can only be shared between two teams in the same Conference. This will be the fifth time they meet this spring.

Ultiworld asked UNC head coach Mike DeNardis who Darkside would rather face in semifinals: Pittsburgh or Wilmington.

“We’ve beaten both teams; they’ve both beaten us,” DeNardis said. “I think I prefer Wilmington because they’re our regional rival; it’s just a fun game.”

In any good rivalry, it only matters who won the last one. This is a great chance for North Carolina to avenge the Regional final. Not to mention the stage and the gravity of this game. National semis is a little different than the Saturday crossover at Wolfpack Invite.

DeNardis spoke to the defensive approach we might see from Darkside. “We need to pressure them more and not worry about getting beat deep on hucks,” he said.

Not a bad idea by DeNardis and company, because from what we’ve seen of Wilmington thus far, the hucks from Xavier Maxstadt and Trueman Nottingham are going to happen whether anyone’s worried about them or not.

The Take

Wilmington has gotten better every tournament – this tournament included — and at this year’s Nationals they’ve won their last three games, pulling on double game point each time. This team is firing on all cylinders. Will there be an emotional letdown after unseating Pitt like what happened to Central Florida last year in the finals? However the Seamen play, their recent successes will not scare UNC. There’s a summer’s worth of pride and a shot at the National Championship on the line, and UNC has cruised into semis. Tonight’s semifinal game is going to push this rivalry to the next level.

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