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The Daily Tar Heel

With a win, women's lacrosse redeems itself against Northwestern

The North Carolina women's lacrosse team won 12-11 on Saturday.

Fetzer Field was still buried under layers of snow Saturday afternoon. Forced to move its game to the adjacent turf of Navy Field instead, the No. 3 North Carolina’s women’s lacrosse team (5-1) knew it would be braving the cold for its matchup against No. 7 Northwestern (3-2). It also knew that this game against Northwestern — in more than just a change in venue — had to be different. 

“I remember when we were watching film the last thing that (Assistant Coach Katrina Dowd) showed us was the film of Northwestern celebrating last year after we lost to them," sophomore midfielder Maggie Bill said. "That really got to me and I just didn’t want that to happen again.”

So Bill, part of the team that lost at Northwestern 7-5 last season, took matters into her own hands. 

Wildcat keeper Bridget Bianco had given UNC all kinds of trouble, ending the day with 13 total saves, stopping all four free position shots she faced, and helping her team to a one-goal lead with 14 minutes remaining.

That was when Bill decided enough was enough. She charged at the goal again and again and strung together a series of three unassisted goals in the next 10 minutes, including the final dagger of the game that sealed North Carolina’s 12-11 victory.

Bill’s hat trick doubled her goal output on the season and began just minutes after fellow midfielder Sammy Jo Tracy had buried the final goal in her own hard-earned hat trick.

“(Bill) is remarkable,” Tracy said. “She’s really fun to play with and I love to encourage her because if you do, she does amazing things and it makes the game of lacrosse so much fun to watch.

“I was just like, ‘Let’s go, baby!’ And she had that fire under her butt. She took their girls to town and broke a couple of ankles, too.”

Bianco’s goalkeeping combined with Northwestern’s toughness made it difficult for the Tar Heels to gain momentum and pull away for most of the game.

Coach Jenny Levy said she just kept telling her team to keep shooting and to win the ground balls and fight for possession.

“That’s what (Northwestern) is good at,” she said. “They’re going to be tough and they’re going to be scrappy and engaged.

“Obviously we have a lot of respect for their program and the battles between these two programs run deep.”

Tracy led the way in keeping her team composed, searching for ways to get past Bianco and finding success from behind the net. She scored twice on instances where she curled around from behind the goal and surprised the keeper. She also assisted freshman Ela Hazar with a quick, close-range pass from just behind the frame that gave Bianco no time to react.

“It’s all about deception,” Tracy said.

But even though Bianco’s goalkeeping was the story of the game and Bill was the late-game scoring hero, it was UNC sophomore goalkeeper Caylee Waters who may have had the last game-deciding play.

After Bill had given the Tar Heels a one-goal lead, one final push from the Wildcats ended with a rifle of a shot that Waters just barely got to in time to deflect it off the goalpost.

Game over.

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