UNC women's lacrosse sends its seniors out the way it wanted, downed Duke, 20-10
It was a little unnerving.
The No. 5 North Carolina women’s lacrosse team entered Saturday’s game with high expectations. It was Senior Day, the last regular season game and the Tar Heels were playing their rival.
And Duke (7-8, 2-5 ACC) didn’t wait to get into a rhythm. The team scored just 10 seconds into the game.
The home crowd was stunned, but the Tar Heels (12-3, 6-1 ACC) on the field weren't fazed en route to their 20-10 victory.
"We were positive," first-year Jamie Ortega said. "We've done this before ... We were playing for the seniors."
Senior captain Marie McCool did what she does best — show up in big games. After the first goal, she coasted down the field and equalized. Not even 30 seconds had passed.
But the Blue Devils continued to move the ball around with ease, and North Carolina’s defense just couldn’t keep up. A couple missed opportunities for UNC led to a quick 3-1 lead for the visitors.
Defense didn’t seem to be much of a focus for either team early on. Back and forth they went for several minutes, and soon the score read 5-4 Duke. Goals by Ortega and seniors McCool and Maggie Bill kept the Tar Heels in the game up until that point.
And that’s all UNC needed.
Starting at the 16:09 mark, it was a rout. North Carolina finished the first half on a 10-0 run, bringing the score to 14-5. The game was flipped on its head, and it was primarily thanks to the unrelenting offense of the UNC seniors. Them, and Jamie Ortega.
At the half, McCool had four goals and a nice assist, and Bill had two goals and an assist. Ortega made sure Duke didn’t forget her name either, notching four goals in the half and finishing with a career-high seven on the day.
“Jamie had a great week of practice,” head coach Jenny Levy said. “She did a couple things real early yesterday and I said, ‘You can do that all day tomorrow.’”
She did, and North Carolina coasted through the second half.
Ortega set the tone, scoring first to push the lead to 10. While the Blue Devils managed to get a few goals in the second half, it wasn’t close. North Carolina ran away with the 20-10 victory over its rivals.
The rivalry hasn’t been very close of late, however. UNC has taken the win in each of the last eight matchups with the Blue Devils. That means McCool was undefeated against Duke in her four years at North Carolina, with this last win setting the record for most team goals scored in the matchup.
This dominant performance wasn’t anything new, either. It was the third consecutive game where UNC scored at least 20 goals.
“It's been collectively as a unit, not just on the offensive end,” McCool said. “How every single unit on the field has been putting forth their best effort is what motivates all of us together.”
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This was a fitting end to McCool’s home career. She’s been first-team All-America twice (and a candidate for a third time after this season), she was integral to the team's 2016 national championship and has been a true leader for this team.
“She’s changed so many things about me,” said Ortega. “I've never seen someone so good and focused and strong as a player. And as a person she's amazing, and I love spending time with her. On the field, she'll always make you better”
There’s no doubt the team was playing for the seniors on Saturday, but the season isn’t close to over. The ACC Tournament starts on Thursday, and the NCAA Tournament is after that.
“It's really sad, obviously, my last regular season home game in Chapel Hill," McCool said. “It came by so quickly, and so it kind of all hit this week.”