The No. 5 North Carolina women’s lacrosse team added another close win to its record on Saturday afternoon. The Tar Heels used an explosive offensive effort in the second half to take the 13-12 victory over No. 22 Notre Dame.
UNC (8-3, 3-1 ACC) got off to a slow start on offense, but its defense made up for it early on.
After the Fighting Irish (6-6, 2-4 ACC) opened the scoring, North Carolina equalized just over 10 minutes into the first half. It was an extremely defensive game for both sides at first, but the Tar Heels started to wane after 20 minutes of action.
Notre Dame went into the break on a 5-1 scoring run, and the momentum was obviously leaning in one direction with a 6-2 halftime score. Notre Dame goalie Samantha Giacolone was impressive, notching six saves in the first half alone.
However, the Tar Heels didn’t shy away from adversity.
Instead, they came out swinging in the second half. Jamie Ortega scored in the first minute, her second of the game.
This started a 10-minute avalanche for North Carolina. Kara Klages and Ortega each scored two more, and Katie Hoeg capped off a 6-1 run to grab the lead. All of sudden, the game had been flipped on its head and UNC was steering the ship.
The teams went back-and-forth, but UNC was too sharp on offensive and grabbed a 13-9 lead with 7:11 left. After it looked like the Tar Heels would be run out of their own building, now they were cruising.
Or so it looked.
The Irish made one last push, scoring three goals in 75 seconds. North Carolina’s lead was down to one, and Notre Dame got the ball back with 51 seconds remaining. The Tar Heels played some of their best defense in that last minute, though, and didn’t allow the Irish to even get a shot off.
Who stood out?
Jamie Ortega played her best game of the season, scoring a career-high six goals in the game. She was the driving force that brought North Carolina back in this game.
Not only was her performance important for the team, but she was also playing against her sister, Nikki. The two sisters combined for eight goals on the day.
Elise Hennessey didn’t play her best game, but she had several vital saves in the second half. She had six of her eight stops in that second frame, and came up big when she needed to.
When was it decided?
It wasn't decided until the final possession. Each Tar Heel played lockdown defense in those moments — and they needed to.
Though UNC’s last goal came at the 7:11 mark — and that’s ultimately what earned it the victory — Notre Dame came very close to tying the game. If the Irish scored in those final minutes, it would have been a hotly-contested overtime.
Why does it matter?
Notre Dame is a very good conference opponent, and there are only three ACC games left after this game. And though the Tar Heels have proven to be able to perform in the clutch, that sort of practice could come up huge at the end of the season.
This is North Carolina's fourth game that has been decided by just one goal, and UNC is 3-1 in those games. The only loss was the season opener at James Madison — a contest that went into double overtime.
When do they play next?
North Carolina will play in Chapel Hill for its third straight game when it takes on Louisville next Saturday at 3 p.m.
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