But it wasn’t the loss that upset Coach Jenny Levy.
“In the early parts of the game, it is on the officials to make sure that they let the players know what will be allowed during the game and what won’t, and that didn’t happen today,” she said.
Much of the game was driven by physical play. UNC’s first goal of the game came after a scrappy period of play in front of the net.
After a few rough plays on both ends of the field, the fouls rapidly piled up. Florida notched as many fouls in the first half as the Tar Heels had shots — 24.
Despite the inflated number of fouls, North Carolina felt the game lacked control.
Sophomore Marie McCool — who recorded a career-high six goals in UNC’s loss — was concerned by the sheer number of fouls called.
“I think it got a little out of hand,” she said. “We knew it was going to be a physical game, it always is when we play Florida. But I think that it just was not OK today.”
In the first three games of the Tar Heels’ season, a total of nine yellow cards were issued. Saturday, the referees pulled the yellow card out of their pocket 10 times.
The two-minute penalty for receiving a yellow card didn’t seem to affect the teams’ performances. The Gators knocked in the first of their eight second-half goals while playing two players down.
But the momentum suffered.
“I think early on in the game the tempo is set by what’s going to be allowed and what’s not going to be allowed,” Levy said. “If you don’t set that tempo right away then the game is going to get out of control both ways.”
She expressed her concerns for the safety of the players and the quality of game demonstrated in Saturday’s match, but attributed the loss to strong competition and her team’s lack of ability to finish.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Florida and what their kids did. They had a couple of unbelievable goals,” she said. “When you play a top-level game like the game today that’s going to happen. That’s the best part of this game — when you see two really great teams battling against each other, and you see some great plays on both ends.”
Junior Molly Hendrick agreed with her coach.
“It was a tough loss, but they’re a good team and there are a lot of lessons we can take away going into our next games,” she said.
But despite this, Levy’s biggest takeaway was still the need for safety in a game that can easily evolve into dangerous play.
“We have a responsibility as coaches and officials to keep our game safe,” she said. “Or else we are going to be in helmets.”