NCAA Lacrosse 2014: Defending champion Tar Heels fall 10-9 to Cavaliers

Peter Koutroumpis –

CHAPEL HIL, N.C. – The defending NCAA-champion North Carolina Tar Heels’ suffered a stunning 10-9 loss to the sixth-seeded Virginia Cavaliers in their quarterfinal matchup in the 2014 NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Tournament played at Fetzer Field on Saturday.

The third-seeded Tar Heels appeared on their way to extend their unbeaten streak to 10 games over the Cavaliers, leading 7-4 at halftime.

However, after taking an 8-5 lead early in the second, a combination of draw control losses and big stops by UVA goalkeeper Liz Colgan made the difference in allowing Virginia to stage a comeback and to knock the Tar Heels out of the tournament.

“Obviously we’re heartbroken,” North Carolina head coach Jenny Levy said.

“Especially for our senior group who has done such a great job leading…I hate to see our senior class leave ever, whether it’s this time of year or a week later. We’re very proud of them and their leadership this year. They definitely left a legacy at Carolina to be very proud of.”

Attacks Abbey Friend and Carly Reid each scored three goals to lead the North Carolina offense with singles tallied by Taylor George, Carly Davis and Maggie Bill.

Tar Heels keepers Caylee Waters and Megan Ward made a combined 5 saves and played even 30 minutes each during the first and second halves respectively.

Liza Blue tallied two goals and extended her goal-scoring streak to 26 games going back to last year, and along with Mary Alati (2 goals) and Casey Bocklett (2 goals) helped to power the Cavaliers scoring surge during the final thirty minutes of play.

After the Tar Heels claimed ball possession off the draw by a margin of 8-4 in the first half, the Cavaliers figured out a way to muscle their way to do the same in the second, winning six straight while losing only three.

“Very proud of our entire performance, particularly during the second half,” Virginia head coach Julie Myers said.

“In particular during the second half, making big plays all over the field whether it’s a draw, a save, or transition to a goal. I think Carolina is a fantastic team. They made us work really hard for it and I feel like we got the momentum at just the right time of the game and we were able to see it through.”

Maintaining ball possession in excess of 12 minutes, Virginia’s offense took its time to wear down the North Carolina defense and picked its spots to score.

Unfortunately for Ward, the Tar Heels keeper in goal during the second half, she nor the defense in front of her could make enough stops to deny the Cavaliers the opportunity to come back, and they eventually fell behind 10-8 with 6:45 to play.

Friend scored her third goal of the game and narrowed North Carolina’s deficit down to one goal with 4:17 to play, leaving ample time to tie the score.

Margaret Corzel won an important draw control for the Tar Heels following the goal, but Colgan eventually came up with a critical stop on a shot from Molly Hendricks a minute later on the possession.

As the Virginia keeper tried to clear the ball, North Carolina’s ride pressured her to turn the ball over behind her net.

Friend picked up the loose ball and passed it to George who had an open shot to score on the empty cage, but was checked and her shot attempt missed.

As the ball flew wide of the goal, so did the Tar Heels’ final opportunity to tie the game.

The Cavaliers were able to claim possession back following the play.

With 2:09 remaining, Virginia’s talented attack and midfielders were able to keep the ball away from North Carolina’s defenders as they used the entire area of the field to run the clock down and preserve the win.

“Our rules allow you to stall the ball,” Levy said.

“Last year the rules committee didn’t have the courage to change that rule and so we’re still sitting in games where teams are stalling the ball. If we don’t have the ball, we can’t score.”

According to Myers, the Cavaliers’ strategy on ball possession was a product of how the game progressed.

“It was not scripted by any means,” she said.

“We wanted to take our time getting to the goal, but I think one of Carolina’s strengths is how good they are at defense. It took that long to get in and get a good shot off. Their strength ended up kind of hurting them because it was so hard for us to get a shot off. We ended up having the ball longer than we even thought we were going to have it.”

As the debate on how games are won or lost under the current rules without a shot clock will continue, for North Carolina’s seniors like Friend, all she could do was watch the clock count down until the final horn sounded to signal the end of the season and her career with the Tar Heels.

“Four years is done – gone too quickly obviously,” she said while holding back tears.

“This isn’t the situation we wanted to end with, but I think the seniors did a really good job all four years and I wouldn’t have wanted to graduate with a different class. I think it was really nice to have a group of 37 girls that you love to death. You can see that everyone’s equally upset and that really shows how much they really care about us as a senior class which always makes it a little better I guess.”