Trailing Maryland 8-4 midway through the first half, the No. 1 North Carolina women’s lacrosse team was struggling to earn possession of the ball.
At 5-foot-3, junior Sarah Scott — North Carolina’s draw control leader – was facing off against an opponent who was six inches taller. The Terrapins had won nine straight draw controls and looked like they were ready to run away with the lead.
Maggie Bill, a 5-foot-7 freshman known for her athleticism, made sure that didn’t happen.
Bill took the reigns in the draw circle and helped her team win three straight draw controls, all of which led to goals, to trim Maryland’s lead to just one goal.
In a game with two potent offenses, controlling possession usually meant controlling the score. Bill’s efforts on the draw were undoubtedly a key element in leading her team to a 17-15 victory against the No. 2 Terrapins.
“Maggie was outstanding today,” coach Jenny Levy said. “I thought she was the margin of difference for us on many different occasions.
Bill left her mark all over the game. In addition to being in the draw circle for eight of her team’s 10 draw controls in the game, she also scored the first and last goals for the Tar Heels as well as two back-to-back goals during a 5-0 run for UNC in the second half.
The five-point game is a career high for the freshman, who came to UNC as the no. 2 ranked recruit in the nation.
“(Bill) really just took control of the game,” senior captain Abbey Friend said. “She got us the ball, which we really needed.”
Maryland is traditionally exceptional at keeping the ball away from the Tar Heels. Their 24-10 dominance on draw controls resembles that of last year’s championship match, in which they earned 19 draw controls to North Carolina’s 11.
“Maryland traditionally makes runs in that first five minutes and the last five minutes of each half,” Levy said. “I thought winning that first draw and scoring early in the second half was key for us because that’s usually what Maryland does.”
The player in the circle when the Tar Heels won that opening draw in the second half?
It was Maggie Bill.
The Tar Heels, despite ranking second in the country at draw controls, have had to work hard to compete with Maryland’s skill in the circle.
“Our draw team works really hard,” Bill said. “We stay after practice sometimes to work on draws specifically with (coach Katrina Dowd).
“Before the game, we usually line up and work on draws, too, so I think we’re always really well prepared for it.”
Even with all of the preparation, Bill admitted to being especially nervous about taking the draws in the rivalry match — particularly after her team struggled to win draws and control possession in the loss to Northwestern earlier in the week.
She remembered watching North Carolina play the Terrapins in last year’s championship and being well aware of Maryland’s abilities.
“Every single one of them are awesome athletes,” Bill said.
What makes Bill such a promising factor for North Carolina’s future is her own athleticism, which her entire team is quick to mention.
“She does all the little things on the field really well, but she’s also incredibly athletic, and her IQ is off the charts,” Levy said.
It doesn’t hurt that Bill is used to putting in the extra work.
The first time she suited up in a North Carolina uniform, she wasn’t wearing a mask or carrying a stick.
After being recruited to play lacrosse, Bill decided to join UNC’s women’s soccer team as well. She played 12 games as a forward in the fall season and helped the Tar Heels reach the NCAA quarterfinals.
“(Soccer season) definitely helped me fitness-wise, but also mentally,” she said. “It helped me realize that you can’t take any days off.
“If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse. So I just come into every day with the mentality that you just have to give 100 percent every single day.”
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