The Tar Heels erased a three-goal halftime deficit, tying the score at 5, 6 and 7. But it wasn’t enough, as UNC dropped its second straight game at Fetzer Field on Saturday, losing 8-7.
The loss marked the first time in 10 seasons UNC dropped back-to-back games at home.
“We didn’t finish how we would like, but it’s always a great match against the Maryland (Terrapins),” said senior Sammy Jo Tracy.
North Carolina struggled to score early in a rematch of the 2015 NCAA national championship game. The UNC offense, scoring 15.75 goals per game, managed one goal in the first half.
The Terrapins frustrated junior Molly Hendrick and sophomore Marie McCool with double-teams. The duo had accounted for 28 goals on the year but scored just once on a second-half goal by McCool.
North Carolina committed six first-half turnovers, while Maryland had seven. Each team also had nine fouls in the first half. But the Tar Heels trailed 4-1 at halftime.
“I thought it was sloppy early,” Coach Jenny Levy said. “I thought we left some stuff out on the field that, if we’d finished, probably would have made a little bit of difference early on.”
While the Tar Heels’ offense failed to produce, junior Caylee Waters kept her team in the game with a career high 13 saves.
“They forced a lot of shots that I’d worked on in practice, and I wanted to see so I was ready for what I was seeing,” Waters said.
Sometimes UNC replaces Waters with senior Megan Ward in the second halves of games, but Levy kept Waters in on Saturday.
“I think, overall, there was maybe just one or two that I think she probably wants back, but she was great for us today I thought in second half,” Levy said. “She made some great saves. She saw the ball well, attacked, and then we obviously cleared the ball well today, too.”
The Tar Heels cut into the Terrapins’ three-goal lead early in the second half with fluid offensive movement. Tracy sparked a three-goal run to tie the game at 5 by winning crucial draw controls.
“I do work on it every day,” she said. “I do well on the draw, but it wouldn’t be anything without my teammates.”
Although the Tar Heels tied the game three times in the second half, they could never seize the lead.
Maryland sophomore Megan Whittle notched her fourth goal of the game with 3:39 left to give the Terrapins an 8-7 advantage. Maryland won the ensuing draw control and ran out the clock.
While the result might sting, Levy said playing the No. 1 team in the country will prepare the Tar Heels for challenges later in the season.
“I know that those guys want to play,” she said. “They’re unselfish and they want to play together and they want to do well, so we’ll get it. It’s a good test for us.”