The No. 3 North Carolina women’s lacrosse team and No. 6 Notre Dame entered Sunday’s matchup with reputations for lighting up the scoreboard.
UNC touted the eighth-best scoring offense in the country, while the Fighting Irish held the second-best. And in the Tar Heels' 14-8 victory at Fetzer Field, UNC (10-2, 4-0 ACC) confirmed its offensive prowess while Notre Dame was held to its lowest scoring output of the 2016 season.
Before Sunday’s loss, Notre Dame (10-3, 3-3 ACC) averaged 16.08 goals per game. UNC’s defense cut the Fighting Irish’s scoring average in half, while its offense scored above its average of 13.73 goals per game.
“We were just being really smart about our slides,” said junior goalkeeper Caylee Waters on UNC’s defensive effort. “We knew their top players and that we couldn’t slide from their top players.
“They have a good handful of kids that can really shoot, so we were smart about our strategy and we communicated really well.”
Notre Dame’s Rachel Sexton scored with 26:56 remaining in the first half, but the Fighting Irish were held scoreless until 6:23 left in the opening period.
Meanwhile, the Tar Heels jumped to a 9-1 lead in the first half with goals from seven different players. Junior attacker Molly Hendrick — who now leads the team with 40 goals — had three goals during the run in the first half.
“We wanted to emphasize fast breaks in this game,” Hendrick said. “We got a bunch of the first draws and just shoved it down their throats.”
Defensively, the Tar Heels limited Cortney Fortunato — the ACC’s leading goal-scorer — to just one goal on only three shot attempts.
Waters said volunteer assistant coach Taylor Chumney Scotton and other players helped mimic Fortunato’s shooting style to prepare the goaltenders for the game.
“We know that (Fortunato) likes to fire it early and sometimes she does sidearm,” Waters said. “So (we) definitely saw a bunch of sidearm shots and also ones where she ripped right away. Sometimes you’re used to seeing a few more steps in a shot, but (we) were definitely prepared for the shots.”
This is the ninth time UNC has held its opponent to single-digit goals. In those games, the Tar Heels are 8-1, with the lone defeat coming in an 8-7 loss to No. 1 Maryland on Feb. 27.
Coach Jenny Levy said defense is a team game and the level of play depends on communication and trust between teammates.
“We’ve rebuilt a defense from last season that graduated four seniors,” she said. “But we have a lot of confidence in the kids that are playing this year.
“We’ve got great goaltending in Caylee Waters and our (midfielders) are coming along. Some of our younger (midfielders) are starting to really pop for us.”
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