As Maryland attacker Sarah Mollison wrapped around the crease, getting ready to rip a shot at the North Carolina goal, sophomore goalie Lauren Maksym wasn’t thinking about her lightning-quick reflexes or ability to block the ball with her body — she was just relying on her memory.
“It’s kind of funny—one of our coaches, Cookie (Kristen Carr), who was on the team last year, warms me up so a lot of times I actually picture her at the angles and just think in my head about what we do everyday,” Maksym said. “It’s just muscle memory.”
Maksym used her memory to anticipate Mollison’s shot, stepping in front of Mollison’s stick to stuff the ball before it could travel more than a few inches.
Maksym’s momentum-killing saves led third-seeded North Carolina all the way to the championship game Sunday, where it lost 12-7 to first-seeded Maryland.
But Maksym, who was named to the ACC’s All-Tournament team, put on a show in all three games for the Tar Heels, posting a total of 24 saves during the weekend.
Her instinctive play and ability to deflect shots led the Tar Heels’ defensive effort, which held opponents to an average of just more than four goals per half.
North Carolina tied its second-best performance in goals allowed against Virginia on Friday, giving up just five goals to the sixth-seeded Cavaliers.
Maksym’s impact was also felt on the offensive side of the ball.
“When you have your defense and your goalie make big saves and big plays like that it definitely fires you up,” senior Corey Donohoe said.
“It makes you more motivated as an offensive player to credit that and score a goal for that.”
Maksym fueled the Tar Heels’ first-half performance of the championship game with eight saves. The defense held the Terrapins to only three goals, a season-low for top-ranked Maryland. It was also the first time the Terrapins had trailed at the half all season.
The second half was a different story, entirely. The Tar Heels’ defensive group gave up nine goals in the half, including an 8-0 run for the Terps to close out their win.
But Levy was quick to remove blame from Maksym.
“In the second half the goals that were scored, those weren’t on Maks,” Levy said. “That’s us trying to create some turnovers, and in that situation you give up two or three goals at the end of the game.
“When we’re switching around our defense, good teams are going to find those outlets. Your opportunity to create turnovers is right away, if you don’t get that then you’re in trouble.”
Maksym certainly didn’t receive any help from the UNC offense, which got off only five shots to Maryland’s 14 in the second half.
But Levy didn’t let one bad half break her confidence in her goalkeeper.
“I said this in the beginning of the year, I said it in the middle of the year and I’m going to say it right now, I think she’s one of the best in the country.”
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