Maryland takes ACC Championship game from Tar Heels
The UNC women's lacrosse team lost its fourth consecutive title game.
Following the final horn in Sunday’s ACC women’s lacrosse championship, Maryland goalkeeper Kasey Howard braced herself for the onslaught of her rushing teammates, as they rallied to celebrate their 12-8 victory against North Carolina.
Meanwhile, huddled at the sideline, UNC was forced to wait, as Maryland prepared to hoist the championship trophy for the fifth consecutive year. Senior midfielder Kara Cannizzaro distanced herself to the far end of the field, to reflect upon her team’s fourth straight loss to the Terrapins in the title game.
The senior co-captain could only muster a few words after the game.
“We weren’t getting into our offense,” she said.
For UNC coach Jenny Levy, the game simply came down to UNC’s atypical inability to clear the ball and a failure to control the clock of the game.
“We’re usually about 99, 95 percent on clearing,” Levy said. “So if we had taken care of that, it probably would have been a little bit of a different game.”
After heading into the locker room with a 5-3 halftime lead, the Terrapins scored six of the next seven goals to open the second half, extending their lead to 12-4 with just over 14 minutes remaining in the game.
But the Maryland lead was not insurmountable to junior attacker Abbey Friend, who added three unanswered goals in a nearly a three-minute span.
“I thought we were doing a little bit better job in the second half than in the first half just with moving the ball and creating openings. There definitely were more open slots in the second half that I could take advantage of,” she said. “But we really didn’t have a lot of opportunities to make offensive plays.”
UNC’s offensive struggles were due in large part to a stifling Maryland defense — something for which Maryland coach Cathy Reese commended her players.
“I think when you play players like Cannizzaro — and Friend had a lot of goals— those guys are good dodgers,” she said.
“They’ve got good challengers that we have a lot of respect for, so we needed to make sure that we limited their opportunities, hopefully forcing them into not such a great shot.”
The Terrapin defense was backed by Howard in the cage. The senior tallied nine saves on a soggy Fetzer Field.
“We’ve been working all year on forcing players wide so they could take the low angle shot and I think we did a really good job executing that tonight,” she said.
“It was pretty muddy in the crease, otherwise vision wise, I didn’t really notice the rain actually…I tried not to think about the weather too much.”
Facing Tar Heel double teams, 2012 Tewaarton Award winner Katie Schwarzmann was held scoreless, but displayed a keen passing ability. The senior midfielder tied the record for most assists in an ACC title game with four. Maryland’s Brooke Griffin, Taylor Cummings and Beth Glaros were on the receiving end of Schwarzmann’s passes, as each tallied three goals apiece.
Friend led the Tar Heels with four goals, while Cannizzaro, Emily Garrity, Brittney Coppa and Aly Messinger all netted one each.
With the loss UNC is now 1-7 in school history in the ACC women’s lacrosse championship game, but Levy recognizes the quality of her team’s matchups in the final with Maryland, who will leave the conference after next season.
“It’s a great battle. They’re two really good programs that are perennially in the top four,” she said. “There is familiarity, but you still have to come out, show up and play the game for 60 minutes. It has no memory.”
But UNC finds itself still waiting for another opportunity to claim its first ACC title since 2002.
And after ending the tournament the past four years with the same result, the Tar Heels face an even greater gap since their last ACC title than Cannizzaro’s distance from her teammates after her fourth loss as a Tar Heel in the ACC title game.
For the nearly speechless senior, the game marked the last time she would contend for a conference title with her team — a feeling that will be hard to forget.
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