“I think we used that momentum from last year to really fire us up this year and kind of stick it to them,” said junior Aly Messinger.
And the No. 2 North Carolina women’s lacrosse team did just that — beating the No. 3 Blue Devils 12-6 in front of more than 1,400 people in Koskinen Stadium to clinch the ACC regular-season title.
This marks the fifth consecutive win for UNC (13-2, 6-1 ACC) and its sixth overall ACC regular-season crown.
The Tar Heels’ offense kept the Blue Devils (13-2, 5-2 ACC) moving, with many goals made with the defenders away from the shooters.
“I think each of us on the offensive side, we really try to create opportunities for each other, and that means keeping our defender occupied and just keep on moving and keeping them confused,” said sophomore Maggie Bill. “We work on it every day in practice and it definitely paid off today.”
The midfielder ended the game with two goals and two assists and said the team worked hard in the absence of two of its top scorers, Brittney Coppa and Molly Hendrick — who are both sidelined due to ACL injuries.
“What’s great about our team is that we have so much depth, and I think losing two of our really good players, it fired us all up, and everyone stepped up,” Bill said. “We knew what we had to do.”
UNC led 5-1 early in the first half before Duke made three consecutive goals, cutting the lead to one. But the Blue Devils’ efforts were quickly smashed by junior attacker Sammy Jo Tracy, who scored the Tar Heels’ sixth goal of the night. Duke went to the locker rooms at halftime down 7-4.
Although UNC was up at halftime, Coach Jenny Levy told her team to act like the scoreboard was 0-0 going into the final 30 minutes.
“We still wanted to attack and be aggressive mentality wise and take care of our business defensively,” Levy said. “I thought we did a good job of that in the second half.”
With 19:24 left in the game, Tracy did something she has practiced many times before in practice — a trick shot called the ‘Twizzler.’
Tracy completed a well-executed hat trick with her back to the goal and a quick snap shot, bringing the Tar Heels lead to 9-5.
Three more UNC goals followed, putting the 2013-14 loss to its major rival in the past.
“The ACC’s a really tough conference, and Duke’s a really good team, and they’ve been playing well all season, and to come out here and have a really solid game from front to back, you know we’re happy,” Levy said.
“To capture the ACC regular-season title is not an easy thing to do.”