For much of Saturday's game against North Carolina, it seemed nothing could go wrong for Terrapins men's lacrosse midfielder Connor Kelly, especially in the third quarter.
With 9:30 left in the period, Kelly had the ball just outside his team's attack area when a defender tripped him up.
As the referee threw his flag, Kelly quickly got back to his feet, ran forward a few yards and passed to midfielder Colin Heacock, who was positioned directly in front of the Tar Heels' goal. Despite losing his balance while shooting, Heacock scored to give the Terps a 7-4 lead.
The assist was Kelly's career-high sixth point of the day. The Easton, Connecticut, native added a hat trick to go with his three assists, setting or matching career highs in all three categories and propelling his team to an 11-8 victory over No. 12 North Carolina.
"Off-ball movement is just key on our team," Kelly said. "[We have] a lot of great players; [opponents] got to key in on some guys, and then [I] just try to find anybody who's open."
Kelly got the ball to Heacock earlier in the game, too.
Late in the first quarter, Kelly made a cross-crease pass to the junior that whizzed directly in front of Tar Heel goalkeeper Brian Balkam. Heacock received the ball just beyond the opposite post and easily deposited it past Balkam.
It marked Kelly's first assist of the day, though he'd already scored twice in the opening quarter. After the sophomore's breakout performance, coach John Tillman touted Kelly's versatility.
"One of the things that's great about our pieces is that there's so much flexibility, and Connor's a prime example," Tillman said. "He'll play some attack; sometimes he's behind; sometimes he's up top."
Kelly contributed from all of those positions Saturday. It was a familiar sight for the Tar Heels. Last season, Kelly scored a hat trick in a 14-7 win over North Carolina in the NCAA quarterfinals, which he entered having scored just two goals all season.
"Late last year, [Kelly] really started to get more comfortable and blossom," Tillman said. "It's really hard to break the lineup as a freshman, and to do that last year says a lot about the confidence we have in him."
He added: "He's a guy that stays after almost every day for like five minutes and is working on his shot, working on some of his technique."
Tillman said Kelly "deserves the credit" for his success, but he knew the midfielder wouldn't seek kudos.
Sure enough, in the postgame news conference after the best performance of his career, Kelly commended his fellow Terps — including members of the scout team who didn't see the field Saturday.
"I know we have a lot of talent on this team," Kelly said. "Everybody can do anything on any given day."