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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC women's lacrosse wins national championship with 13-7 win over Maryland

The North Carolina women's lacrosse team defeated Maryland 13-7 to capture the NCAA championship on Sunday at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, PA.

The North Carolina women's lacrosse team defeated Maryland 13-7 to capture the NCAA championship on Sunday at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, PA.

The North Carolina women’s lacrosse team defeated the Maryland Terrapins, 13-7, in Chester, Pa., on Sunday afternoon to win the national title. Led by goalie Megan Ward, who recorded a career-high 14 saves, the No. 3 Tar Heels (20-2) held No. 1 Maryland (22-1) to just seven goals and won their program’s second national championship.

What happened?

North Carolina played like a championship team Sunday . After Maryland went up 1-0, the Tar Heels scored the next six goals to take a commanding 6-1 lead. It was a balanced effort -- one goal each from Ela Hazar, Marie McCool, Molly Hendrick and Carly Reed, and two goals from Sammy Jo Tracy.

There was never a chance, though, that Maryland, coming in with a 22 game winning streak, would go quietly. Maryland made a late push to make the score 6-4 at halftime and went into the break with momentum on its side.

UNC scored first in the second half, and Maryland countered with two of its own. Those two goals made it 7-6, putting North Carolina in a dangerous position. But again, the Tar Heels responded with a string of goals that would win them the national championship.

The Tar Heels scored five unanswered goals, from five different players, to take a commanding 12-6 lead.

That’s the kind of thing championship teams do. They play tough, take punches and then counter with punches of their own.

North Carolina played like that kind of team today.

Who stood out?

One of the unique things about the North Carolina women’s lacrosse team all season is their depth. Coach Jenny Levy hasn’t just built a team but has built a program that doesn’t rely on just one star to succeed. 

The Tar Heels have stars, still, and they showed up Sunday. Molly Hendrick had three goals and Aly Messinger had two goals and four assists to lead the Heels offensively.

But what stood out was the Tar Heel team play. UNC assisted on 10 of their 13 goals, and seven different Tar Heels scored at least one in the victory.

"Our team likes to play team ball, so we definitely like to see that," Messinger said. "We've been trying to be that team every game that we've played this season, and we don't care who scores or who passes, that's the way we want to play. So we're very excited to see that many assists."

When was it decided?

With 1:58 remaining, there was a pause in the action as a Maryland player ran off the field with a yellow card. With a break in play and with the ball on the Tar Heel side of the field, North Carolina’s big crowd, all on their feet for the last few minutes of the game, broke out into cheers and cries. They thought it was over then, if not earlier.

The team sensed the way the game was going in how they celebrated after the team’s 12th and 13th goals, but Maryland played tough all the way until the end of the game.

"I don't even know what the final score was, because you feel in those games that it's tight all the way to the end," Coach Jenny Levy said. "I realize we actually won by six, so at the end we were just saying, 'Well, I don't think they can score five goals in 50 seconds. I think we've got it.' But congratulations to my team. They've worked hard all year and they're gutsy and they're tough."

When the final buzzer sounded, the Tar Heels could finally exhale. They were national champions.

Why does it matter?

North Carolina won the program’s second NCAA title. The win caps off a historically dominant year for the North Carolina women’s lacrosse team.

After losing two of their first five games to start the season, the Tar Heels ended the season on a 17-game winning streak, the longest in program history.

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North Carolina finishes the season with a 20-2 record. Those 20 wins are also a school record, beating the 18 wins the team racked up in 2013 and 2015.

"I am very proud of the players and coaching staff that we have, they were gritty and tough all year," Levy said. "Today's game was no different as we were in tight games all year and I think we played nine one-goal games. All year long we played hard and found ways to win."

Additionally, the Tar Heels avenged a loss to Maryland last year in the national championship game. On May 24, 2015, Maryland went on a 6-2 run in the second half to win 9-8 and win the title. A year and five days later, it was the Tar Heels who made the statement run in the second half to take home the National Championship trophy. 

@bauman_john

sports@dailytarheel.com