The North Carolina women’s lacrosse team controlled all but 18 meters of the field in its 14-8 victory against Richmond on Sunday.
But it was the most important 18 meters — the 18 meters in front of the Richmond goal — that gave the Tar Heels the most trouble.
The Tar Heels dominated the middle of the field, forcing 18 turnovers and picking up 20 groundballs. But UNC’s transition offense came to a standstill once it got the ball around Richmond’s goal.
Cuts through the middle weren’t yielding goals for North Carolina — the Richmond zone defense allowed UNC attackers to get close to the goal, but closed off shooting lanes.
The Spiders’ defense clogged passing lanes in the middle and caused the Tar Heels to force shots and make bad passes. Richmond’s sag zone defense disrupted UNC’s usually fast-paced offense, throwing off the timing of UNC’s shooters.
“I think a lot of times we take shots too soon, and people don’t realize how much time they have to shoot,” senior Corey Donohoe said. “I feel like if we took that extra second and looked where the space is and then shoot, I feel like we would’ve got a few more goals in there.”
But coach Jenny Levy said the Tar Heels’ offensive inefficiency wasn’t because of the Richmond defense — it was because of UNC’s lack of intensity.
“I thought we were moving half-speed through feeds and through cuts, and when you move half-speed, you shoot at half-speed,” Levy said.
“I thought the looks we took were pretty OK, but we weren’t going full speed. We have to go full speed and the pace at which you play creates better openings, more time to shoot and more effective shooting.”
Poor shooting and turnovers near the crease abruptly ended promising goal-scoring opportunities that would have put the game away for UNC after it jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first seven minutes of the game.
Instead, the Tar Heels shot a mediocre 42 percent, which allowed Richmond to stay in the game and get within two goals of the lead before UNC finally pulled away with seven goals in the last 20 minutes of the game.
Junior Kaitlyn Messinger proved she was one of the few attackers who could crack the code of Richmond’s sag defense, scoring three goals for the Tar Heels.
Messinger saw that passes into the middle weren’t working and used her quickness to attack the zone.
Messinger weaved through the defense, spun off defenders, found open shooting lanes and scored.
Still, Donohoe would like to see the rest of the team have Messinger’s success.
“No matter what defense they’re playing we should be able to keep our motion going and keep moving,” Donohoe said. “We shouldn’t be dictated by what they’re doing.”
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