For all of the success it had last season, the top-ranked North Carolina women’s lacrosse team did something on Saturday that it couldn’t in 2016.
Playing away from home, the Tar Heels defeated No. 3 Florida 13-10, avenging last year’s one-goal loss against the Gators, who were one of only two teams to defeat the 2016 national champions.
With nothing separating either side late in the second half, it was UNC senior Sammy Jo Tracy who won the game for the Tar Heels, scoring three times in the final 3:49 to secure the victory.
Leading 6-3 after a good opening half, UNC (2-0) saw its lead dwindle as Florida (0-1) found its rhythm on offense in the second half. After coming within one goal on two separate occasions, the Gators finally pulled even with just under eight minutes remaining on a goal by junior attacker Shayna Pirreca.
But only minutes later, Tracy restored order for UNC.
Tracy, who dominated the draw control and finished with four goals, was also the one who could put the ball in the net in crunch time.
With just under four minutes left, she scored from point-blank range after being set up by junior midfielder Ela Hazar. Only 42 seconds removed from that goal, Tracy scored on a free position shot.
From that point on, UNC was able to protect its lead as it extend its winning streak to 19 games.
Despite surrendering the opening goal, UNC got off to a better start than it did last week against James Madison. The Tar Heels led by multiple goals for the final 7:13 of first half and took a three-goal advantage into halftime.
With Tracy consistently winning draws – she finished with 10 draw controls – head coach Jenny Levy’s team was able to dictate the tempo off the game and took advantage by converting six of its 17 shots in the first half.
Who stood out?
While Florida certainly looked like the more threatening team for a significant stretch of the second half, the Gators never could retake the lead. Much of that had to do with UNC senior goalie Caylee Waters, who made 12 saves, eight of which came after halftime.
UNC’s offensive performance was even more impressive considering Florida did a good job of containing junior midfielder Marie McCool, who was held scoreless.
Instead, the trio of Hazar, senior attacker/midfielder Molly Hendrick and senior attacker Carly Reed powered the Tar Heels offensively.
Hazar scored twice but was even more dangerous when finding opportunities for her teammates as she finished with four assists. Meanwhile, Hendrick scored three times on seven shots and Reed added two goals, both of which after halftime.
When was it decided?
With UNC ahead 11-9 late in the game, Hazar scored to put the Tar Heels up by three goals with 1:42 remaining, which was too big of a hole for Florida to climb out of.
Why does it matter?
Most teams show improvement between the first and second games of its season. For the Tar Heels, that seemed to be the case. While UNC ultimately did what it needed to do against James Madison in last week’s season opener, it was important for the Tar Heels to put together a more complete performance against a high-quality opponent. UNC did exactly that.
If the Tar Heels needed a reminder that they’re capable of repeating last season’s success, a win on the road against one of the top teams in the country should do just that.
Where do they play next?
UNC plays at Fetzer Field for the first time in 2017 when it faces High Point on Friday. The Tar Heels defeated High Point, 17-5, last season.
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