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The Daily Tar Heel

Four to Be Reckoned With: Women's Lacrosse Holds on Late for Win

Not this year.

North Carolina had been in the conference title game twice before this year. The Tar Heels came up short both times, losing 17-6 to Maryland in 2000.

Not this year.

A UNC player has never won the award for most valuable player. Maryland players have been named tourney MVP four times.

Not this year.

This year, everything changed. North Carolina won its first ACC championship Sunday, defeating defending-champion Maryland 11-10 at Koskinen Stadium. UNC senior midfielder Christine McPike scored five goals and was named tournament MVP, complementing her ACC Player of the Year honor.

When asked to name the last time her team lost a "big game," UM coach Cindy Timchal struggled to remember 1998, the only other year the Terrapins didn't win the ACC championship. That year, Maryland lost to UNC in the semifinals.

"It's great to see Carolina, honestly, win it," Timchal said. "Obviously we would have liked to have won it, but I don't know if they've won a (championship) in the past, so that's why the seniors on this team deserve it."

The Terrapins (9-7, 1-4) didn't give up the trophy without a fight, though. Down 11-7 with 2:12 left in the game, Maryland went on a 3-0 run. The Terps were a goal away from tying the game with 46 seconds on the clock. All they needed was an opportunity and maybe some luck.

That opportunity came after the draw that followed Maryland's 10th goal. UNC (13-2, 4-1) was whistled for a foul, and Maryland had a free start at midfield with a two-on-one advantage in UNC territory. One of the two players was senior attacker Courtney Hobbs, the Terrapins' leader in goals and assists.

The ball was lobbed to Hobbs, but she was forced to the left of the cage where UNC defender Meghan Kelly's stick checked the ball away. It was Kelly's fourth caused turnover of the game and Maryland's last chance to complete its miracle comeback.

"We worked way too hard to give it up in the last 19 seconds of the game," Kelly said. "We train harder than any team in the country. It all comes down to that moment, and I'm not about to give it up in the last 19 seconds."

After Kelly's strip, goalie Katelyn Hoffman went behind the cage, beating UM attacker Annie Collins in a race for the ground ball. Hoffman flung the ball safely to midfield and time expired.

Although the Tar Heels appeared to tighten up during the Terrapin run, UNC coach Jenny Slingluff Levy credited Maryland for stepping up its intensity.

Having used her timeouts, Slingluff Levy had no chance to stop Maryland's momentum or counsel her players.

"I had to rely on the leadership on the field and the hard work that these guys have put in all year," Slingluff Levy said.

UNC's seniors led the way Sunday. Along with McPike's goals, Kellie Thompson had three and Lindsay Stone and Erin McInnes each had one. All three were named to the all-tournament team.

After the presentation of the championship trophy and the naming of the all-tournament team, several UNC players went to grab two water coolers to dump on their victorious coach, but assistant coach Jen Larsen stopped them.

"You guys have not won a national championship yet," she yelled. "Save it."

The NCAA nationals begin May 9. Maryland is the defending champion and has won seven straight titles; North Carolina has never won a national title.

This year, things might change.

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