The No. 3 North Carolina women’s lacrosse team defeated the No. 12 Duke Blue Devils by a final score of 15-10 on Sunday afternoon in Chapel Hill. It was the Tar Heel’s (16-2) third time defeating Duke (11-9) this season.
In the first half, the game was tightly contested. North Carolina took a two-goal lead early after Sammy Jo Tracy and Aly Messinger both scored within the first five minutes, but the team wasn't able to expand that lead for the rest of the first half. Every time UNC scored, Duke countered with goals of their own. The Tar Heels went into the break with a 9-8 lead but with an understanding that they needed to play better in the second half.
“I think we just had momentum in the second half coming out strong, knowing that what we did in the first half wasn’t good enough for the second half," Molly Hendrick said. “Our defense playing a lot better in the second half was a huge momentum shift.”
After allowing eight goals in the first half, the defense allowed just two in the second. North Carolina’s offense fed off the turnovers created by the defense and saves by Caylee Waters in the net to add six more goals in the second half.
“It was a tight game all the way through until the end in the second half,” said Coach Jenny Levy. “I just think that we had to overcome some difficulties and not playing so well in the first half defensively, and once we settled down, I thought that we got stops and were able to capitalize on the offensive end.”
Who stood out?
As they have so many times this year, Tracy and Hendrick led the team offensively. Hendrick had four goals, giving her a team-high 53 for the season. She is enjoying the experience of postseason play after sitting out last year’s postseason with an injury.
“Just being able to participate in the postseason and the NCAAs is huge,” Hendrick said. “It’s a first experience for many on the team so I’m just doing it with them. I felt like last year I was still in it the whole way, even though I was on the sidelines, so it’s just like a repeat of last year, and hopefully it will finish differently.”
Tracy had three goals, two assists and was all over the field forcing turnovers and picking up ground balls for her team. She emphasized getting and keeping possession today.
“My goal was to pick up the loose balls because I think possession was really big in this game, Tracy said. “It was going back and forth but when we had possession, it was really important, so I tried to make sure I got the ball back.”
When was it decided?
Carly Reed scored the game’s final goal with 11:02 left, her second of the day and the team’s 15th, effectively putting the game out of reach for the Blue Devils.
Duke had just scored their 10th goal with 11:43 left in the second half. That could have been the start of a comeback, but Reed charged down the field and slammed the door on any chance Duke had at victory.
Why does it matter?
North Carolina advanced to the next round in the NCAA Tournament, where it will play Notre Dame. The Tar Heels already beat the Fighting Irish once this season, on April 3, by a final score of 14-8. If they win that game, the Tar Heels will be in the Final Four of the women’s lacrosse bracket and another step closer towards the program's second national title.
Where do they play next?
UNC takes on Notre Dame on Saturday at 1 p.m. in Chapel Hill.
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