Tar Heels hold off Terps in NCAA WLAX rematch

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The defending NCAA champion and top-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels women’s lacrosse team handed the second-ranked Maryland Terrapins their first loss of the season, a 17-15 decision, at Fetzer Field on Saturday.

Meeting for the first time since last May when North Carolina won a 13-12 triple-overtime thriller in the NCAA title game, the Terps wanted to extend their 21-11 dominance in the two teams’ all-time series.

However, the Tar Heels had something different in mind.

Abby Friend and Maggie Bill led six Tar Heels scorers with four goals apiece while hat tricks from Aly Messinger and Sydney Holman connected two goals each from Molly Hendrick and a single from Taylor George.

The Terrapins’ Kelly McPartland and Taylor Cummings matched Friend and Bill with four each, and led a compact five-player scoring brigade supported by Zoe Stukenberg (3 goals), Brooke Griffin (1 goal), and Beth Glaros (1 goal).

“It was a great day for our offense,” North Carolina head coach Jenny Levy said.

“I’m happy for them. They had a tough game against Northwestern and to rebound this way is a great thing for us.”

After a slow start, the Tar Heels eventually caught up and ran past the Terps in winning the final Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) matchup between the two teams with Maryland heading to the Big Ten next season.

Maryland’s domination in draw control (24-10), particularly during the first half played a major part in allowing the then-undefeated Terps to build a hefty lead up on the Tar Heels.

After both teams opened the game with a goal apiece, the Tar Heels looked to get a mental edge by taking the game’s first lead, 2-1, with 27:36 remaining in the first half.

However, Maryland went on a 6-0 run for the next 11 minutes, holding a commanding 7-2 lead with 15:46 to play.

Trailing 8-3 at the 13:54 mark, the Tar Heels put together a 6-1 run of their own to even the game up at 9-9 as Friend tied it with 3:53 to play.

As part of that turnaround, Levy made a change in goal as starting keeper Caylee Waters left the game after making three saves and was replaced by Megan Ward.

The change proved to work in the Tar Heels’ favor as Ward, the keeper that helped earn the national championship title against the Terps, eventually finished the game making nine saves and slowed the fast-moving Maryland offense during the second half.

“With a young goalkeeper, Caylee’s very good, we have a lot of confidence in her. That (type of start) tends to rattle a young keeper early, so Meg’s been in that position before. Meg got in and once she got a few shots, she adjusted a little bit better. When you have two really good goalies, one can watch the other and make some adjustments on the sidelines so when they go in they’re a little bit better prepared. Once Meg when in, we thought she was doing a good job of clearing the ball, so we just kept her in.”

With Maryland leading 10-9 to start the second half, the Tar Heels came out firing early as Holman tied it at 10-10 before Messinger gave the Tar Heels a one-goal lead three minutes later.

North Carolina eventually extended its lead to three goals, leading 13-10 with 17:43 to go powered on an improved draw control performance and by continuing to dominate the ground ball possession game over Maryland.

As the Terps were on their way to allowing the most goals scored against them since Apr. 5, 2009 against Ohio State, they didn’t lay down and concede the game easily to the Tar Heels.

With 2:40 remaining and the Tar Heels leading 17-14, Hendrick was sent off the field for an unreleasable foul after making contact to a Maryland player’s head.

While killing the foul time off, Ward made a critical save on McPartland on a free possession that kept North Carolina’s cushion at three goals following the man-advantage opportunity.

With 1:12 remaining, Ward made another stick save to initiate the Tar Heels final clear, but Levy took a final timeout to set her team’s thought process in the right direction to preserve the win.

In what was supposed to be a textbook clear and possession turned into a potential game-changing play.

As the Tar Heels worked the ball slowly up the field, the Terps caused a turnover that resulted in a goal that increased the game’s excitement during the final minute of play

Maryland was trailing by two and capable of winning the draw and scoring as it had been doing during the latter minutes of the game.

However, North Carolina came up with its most important draw possession of the game and while the Terps pulled the keeper to double the ball on the defensive ride, the Tar Heels held on and successfully ran the clock down to earn the win.