UNC women's lacrosse beats defending champion Northwestern

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Junior Abbey Friend shields the ball from a Wildcat defender.

UNC women’s lacrosse coach Jenny Levy said defending national champion Northwestern can always expect the very best from its opponents.

Friday night’s matchup featuring the Wildcats and North Carolina’s squad was no exception.

For the first time in five contests with Northwestern, the Tar Heels came out on top, winning 11-8, and left Northwestern with the feelings of frustration and disappointment that UNC has felt so many times throughout the series.

And for a UNC team that has struggled to preserve its dominant starts to games throughout the season, Friday’s win was a turning point for the young group.

“We are a fast starting team, but keeping up the momentum is something that we’ve struggled with in the past,” junior Taylor George said. “Being able to sustain our momentum and play four quarters of great lacrosse, I think, made the difference today.”

The Tar Heels began the match with a scoring frenzy, netting seven goals in less than 15 minutes of play — the first of which came from George in the opening minute. George would go on to score again with 20:48 remaining in the first half, adding to two Sammy Jo Tracy goals, and one goal each from Abbey Friend, Aly Messinger and Kara Cannizzaro, to give the Tar Heels a comfortable 7-4 lead at the half.

But as top-ranked teams often do, Northwestern chipped away at North Carolina’s lead early in the second half, recording three goals in a span of less than two minutes.

“Every good team’s going to make a run, and also, every good team’s going to make adjustments on what they had game planned to do, and so we had to readjust to that,” Levy said.

“The game isn’t going to go the same way every minute, and you have to adjust to it.”

Levy said taking a quick 6-1 first quarter lead only to give up a 3-0 Northwestern run in the second was disappointing.

But she attributed her team’s ability to work through the change in momentum to her experienced upperclassmen.

“We were having our success because we moved the ball, and so when we got back to that it created some more scoring opportunities for us,” she said.

For a team that hadn’t beaten Northwestern since 2010, the win represented a triumphant achievement of a long-awaited goal.

“We didn’t want to shy away,” Friend said.

“We like to go hard. We like to score goals here at Carolina.”

Contact the desk editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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