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Ward sets career-high off the bench in UNC women's lacrosse win

They have to, considering the injuries attackers Olivia Ferrucci and Sydney Holman have suffered.

But next-one-up isn’t just for injury. It also applies when a teammate catches the flu — as was the case with starting goalie Caylee Waters this week.

Backup goalie Megan Ward filled in with a career-high 13 saves and the No. 3 Tar Heels (11-2, 5-0 ACC) defeated No. 5 Louisville 15-5 in what Ward called a “momentum win” in ACC play.

“We had no problem sticking with Meg, and she came in and does what Meg does,” Coach Jenny Levy said. “She’s a competitor. The team has confidence in her, and she proved (Saturday) that she can handle that (starting) job.”

Ward had only appeared in six games and had only faced 43 shots this season before Saturday’s battle against Louisville (12-2, 3-2 ACC), but she has a wealth of experience to draw from.

In Ward’s first season, she started her team’s final seven games, which included the regular season finale, two ACC Tournament games and four NCAA Tournament games.

Her hot hand in the goal was a major part of North Carolina’s success in capturing the 2013 national championship.

She was a second-team All-ACC selection as a sophomore, but she was joined at goalie by Waters. Ward split time in net with Waters in the 2014 and 2015 seasons, but Waters slowly established herself as the top goalie at UNC and arguably in the nation.

Even while adjusting to a backup role, Ward stayed ready, as she proved on Saturday.

Levy and the rest of the Tar Heels had the utmost confidence in their senior goalkeeper and rallied behind every big play she made.

“Megan Ward played awesome,” said midfielder Sammy Jo Tracy. “Every time she made a huge save, it pumped me up, and we took that momentum and put it in the back of the net.”

The next-one-up approach also applied on offense, helping the Tar Heels put 15 goals into the back of the net.

Marie McCool and Tracy led the way with three goals apiece, but it was a team scoring effort — as eight different Tar Heels scored at least one goal.

But it was UNC’s defensive performance that fueled the win over the Cardinals. And it was Ward at the forefront of it all, deflecting shots and the credit for success to her teammates.

“We shut down some of their main players,” Ward said. “They didn’t get off as many shots as we thought they would from some of their key players. And we just played well all throughout the field for a full 60 minutes.”

And on the defensive end, Ward stepped in and stepped up.


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