Heading into Saturday’s regular-season finale at Vanderbilt, junior attacker Abbey Friend presented herself and the No. 2 North Carolina women’s lacrosse team with a challenge — to play at their highest level for an entire 60-minute game.
The Tar Heels (13-2, 4-1 ACC) stood up to the challenge, delivering a devastating 20-5 defeat to the Commodores (2-13) in what Friend said was a complete-game effort from the team.
“Putting a full game together, from the first whistle to the final draw, is what we’ve been working on for the entire year,” Friend said. “Our goal going (into Saturday) was to play two halves.
“And I think we did that, which was really good.”
The Tar Heels opened the game with 12 unanswered goals while only allowing one first-half Vanderbilt goal in freshman goalkeeper Megan Ward’s first career start.
Although senior goalkeeper Lauren Maksym surrendered four second-half goals, UNC’s offensive attack continued to torch the Commodore defense, finishing the game with its highest goal output of the season.
For the second straight game, UNC displayed its ability to find production on offense from a wide range of options against a lesser opponent. Ten Tar Heels were able to find the net against Vanderbilt — seven of whom tallied two or more goals.
Senior midfielder Kara Cannizzaro, who recorded three goals and tied a career-high with four assists on Saturday, credited her team’s defense for the success it had on offense. A complete-game win was made more impressive by also being a complete-team win, she said.
“I think the offense played really well,” Cannizzaro said. “But the only reason we were able to get so many goals was because our defense was coming up with ground balls and stops, which gave us opportunities to produce on offense.”
Going into the ACC tournament, which will be played next week in Chapel Hill, UNC is coming off its most offensively prolific streak of the season, having outscored its final two opponents 36-9.
North Carolina coach Jenny Levy said Saturday’s blowout of Vanderbilt dictates how the team will prepare in the week leading up to the tournament.
“If we came into Vanderbilt and struggled with momentum and focus, it would have changed the tone of practice for this coming week headed into ACCs,” Levy said. “(The win) gives us an opportunity starting on Monday to have a very good week of practice … take the momentum from this weekend going forward.”
Because UNC has advanced to the ACC final each of the past three years, Cannizzaro said the team knows what to expect in the tournament.
“I don’t think our team needs any inspiration for next week — we know what it’s going to take,” Cannizzaro said. “It’s the ACCs — something you come to Carolina to play for — so we’re all really excited and ready to get to work this week and can’t wait for the weekend.”
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