DURHAM — It was a barrage of shots that did it. No, a symphony of passes and cuts. Maybe it doesn’t matter how — it was just a bucketload of goals that buried Duke.
The No. 4 North Carolina women’s lacrosse team, playing with a little extra fire after last week’s 13-11 loss to Syracuse, came back out with new focus on Saturday afternoon and won 19-7.
The Blue Devils (8-8, 1-6 ACC), playing for their 12 seniors battling in their last game in Koskinen Stadium, came out strong. Maddie Crutchfield’s second goal in less than four minutes tied the game at three with 16:02 remaining in the first half.
“What was disappointing about last weekend was it was really uncharacteristic of us, and we didn’t play well,” head coach Jenny Levy said. “This weekend, our focus was, 'Let’s play well collectively, let’s go out there and have some fun.”
Have fun, they did. After Crutchfield’s second goal, North Carolina scored the next six to go up 9-3. Another run, this time eight goals in a row, put UNC up 18-5 and sealed Duke’s fate.
North Carolina outshot the Blue Devils, 37-26. UNC also had eight assists on 19 goals, a healthy mix of team play and individuals taking their defenders one-on-one and beating them.
Leading the way was Molly Hendrick, who scored a career-high seven goals in the victory.
“I don’t think any of her stuff was forced,” Levy said. “I told her at halftime, 'Your mind is slow, but your body is moving at a great tempo and I really like where you are right now.'”
Levy was right, and Hendrick’s three goals after the half helped seal the deal on North Carolina’s sixth conference victory. Also critical to the Tar Heels’ success was strong play in goal from Caylee Waters, who finished with 13 saves and just six goals allowed.
It was a complete, dominant team performance that couldn’t have come at a better time.
“I think we needed a win like this,” Hendrick said. “We came off a loss last weekend and I think that really lit a fire in us. But yeah, it’s nice to have this before going into the ACCs and NCAAs.”
Hours after the game, the ACC Tournament bracket was announced. North Carolina enters the 2017 ACC women’s lacrosse championship as the No. 1 overall seed and will play Duke again Thursday. UNC’s goal moving forward is clear.
“Winning the tournament,” Waters said. “That’s our focus right now, now that regular season is over.”
Reload the cannons. Fire up the symphony once more. Duke has no time to waste in preparing for the next wave of Tar Heel blue.
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