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UNC women's lacrosse sees bitter end to 18-game winning streak against Syracuse

Midfielder Catie Woodruff (34) chases after the ball while being chased by Syracuse defenders.

Midfielder Catie Woodruff (34) chases after the ball while being chased by Syracuse defenders.

The pregame festivities — which celebrated the careers of this accomplished senior class — seemed prenuptial before UNC clinched its third consecutive ACC regular-season title, playing on Fetzer Field for the final time. For a second, facing the second-best team in the ACC felt like a formality.

Instead, though, No. 11 Syracuse (12-4, 5-1 ACC) handed No. 2 North Carolina (12-2, 5-1 ACC) its second loss in the past 31 games. Instead, the Orange ended the Tar Heels’ 18-game winning streak in conference play that extended back to 2015.

Instead, North Carolina received a wake-up call in Saturday’s 13-11 defeat.

“This is a tough loss,” said senior Sammy Jo Tracy, who ended the contest with two goals.

“I think we’ll learn from this, never forget this feeling and hopefully peak after this.”

While the Tar Heels came out flat, Syracuse was firing on all cylinders on Saturday. First-year Morgan Widner claimed the first three draw controls for the Orange and sparked a 4-0 start to the game.

“Settle down,” head coach Jenny Levy said in a timeout after Syracuse converted its fourth unanswered goal.

“Let’s win the next draw. Let’s do the things that we’ve practiced doing. Let’s get our heads together ...”

“You’re fine. Let’s dig back in and compete.”

Even after the timeout, things weren’t clicking right away.

A goal from junior Marie McCool — who was named National Player of the Week by US Lacrosse after a career performance last weekend — was immediately called back because of an official technicality. And a wave of offensive turnovers in the first half prevented North Carolina from getting into any sort of rhythm against the Orange defense.

And yet, even though UNC never led and trailed by as much as five in the second half, the Tar Heels found themselves with a chance to tie it at the end.

With 51 seconds remaining, McCool converted her only score of the game to pull her team within two goals.

But a Syracuse draw control and, later, a North Carolina missed scoring opportunity rendered the game over.

If reality hadn’t set in yet, it was inescapable now.

“We came back and we fought hard,” McCool said. “But at the same time, we shouldn’t be putting ourselves in that difficult situation ... We can’t just wait for a wake-up call mid-game.”

When the final buzzer sounded, the Syracuse players leaped in elation, forming a dogpile on first-year goalie Asa Goldstock after she put on a 12-save performance. The Orange’s chance to beat the Tar Heels slipped away by a goal in both meetings last year.

But now, Syracuse is back in the driver’s seat to seize that ACC regular-season championship that eluded the team the past two years.

Maybe Fetzer Field witnessed poetic justice, after all.

@alexzietlow05  

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