The No. 2 North Carolina women’s lacrosse team and No. 7 Syracuse had goalies that might as well have been brick walls in the ACC championship game Sunday.
Syracuse’s Kelsey Richardson saved a swift shot from senior midfielder Kelly Devlin with fewer than five seconds left in regulation. Not to be outdone, sophomore goalkeeper Caylee Waters did the same to an Orange attacker at the end of the first overtime, also with fewer than five seconds left.
Someone had to blink. And in double overtime, Syracuse’s Kayla Treanor positioned herself in front of UNC’s goal and scooped the ball past Waters, ripping the back of the net.
Waters walked off the field with both hands covering her helmet after the 9-8 defeat. The Orange (14-6, 3-4 ACC) had just handed UNC (15-3, 6-1 ACC) its fifth loss in the ACC title game in the past six years.
“Caylee (Waters) had a lot to do with getting stops defensively,” Coach Jenny Levy said.
“But you can’t shoot 8-for-30 and you can’t shoot 3-for-9 off the 8-meter and expect to win a championship game.”
Syracuse opened up the game with a 3-0 run. UNC did not get its first goal until 15:09 remaining in the first half, but the goal triggered a 3-0 response from the Tar Heels. The score remained 3-3 going into the locker room, with neither team scoring in the final 11 minutes of the first half.
In the second half, the Orange once again jumped on North Carolina by grabbing an 8-5 lead with 7:16 remaining in regulation.
But the Tar Heels got two goals from sophomore midfielder Maggie Bill and junior attacker Aly Messinger in just 43 seconds to cut the lead to 8-7 at 4:50. Senior defender Sarah Scott capped off UNC’s surge by tying the game on a free position shot with 1:10 remaining, sending the game into overtime.
“We had been in pressure situations before, we’re not new to them,” Messinger said. “We’re playing for an ACC championship so obviously we wanted it, and I thought we stepped it up a little in the last couple minutes.”
Through the first overtime, there was a combined 21 saves by the two goalies.
But there was no save in double overtime. Syracuse won the draw control – its 16th of the game – and Treanor put the game away.
“Well I saw her do her typical rocker step,” Waters said, commenting on the game-winning goal.
“And this time she was at the center of the goal right in front of me instead of where she normally does it a little above the goal line. She just went back and forth with her stick and ripped one top corner.”
The loss ended UNC’s seven-game winning streak against ACC opponents. The Tar Heels will await the announcement of their seeding in the NCAA tournament on May 3.
But for now, only frustration riddles the mind of players and coaches.
“In this type of game you have to have the courage to step up and finish a shot whether you’ve got pressure on you or you are one-on-one with the goalie,” Levy said.
“That's what makes great players great. You have to perform in clutch situations and unfortunately for us we didn’t handle that very well today.”
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