The second-seeded North Carolina women’s lacrosse team pulled away early and never looked back in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Sunday, pounding Virginia Tech 17-8 in Raleigh.
Midway through the first half, the Tar Heels (16-3) were already running away with the game, scoring five consecutive goals from five separate players to take an early lead over the Hokies (14-7).
Senior Maggie Bill struck first blood not even 1:15 into the game on an assist from Ela Hazar. The odds were already in their favor. Coming into the game, the Tar Heels were 12-1 on the season when scoring first.
Hazar followed up with a goal of her own, as did Olivia Ferrucci, Jamie Ortega and Marie McCool to build a solid lead. All five players would go on to score multiple goals the rest of the way, but at that point, the tone and direction of the game were already set.
Down into the last 10 minutes of the first half, the Hokies had responded with three goals of their own. But then North Carolina finished out the half with a three goals to one advantage and took an 8-4 lead at halftime. With 30 minutes left to play, the scoring was well balanced. Seven Tar Heels scored at least once, with Ferrucci striking twice before the break.
During the rest of the game, Virginia Tech scored four goals, while UNC tacked on nine to eliminate any chances of a comeback.
McCool scored her second and third goals of the day — good enough to move into fourth place on the UNC all-time scoring list — as did Bill and Ortega, who joined her as the leading scorers in the contest. McCool also moved up to eighth on the all-time career assists list on Sunday.
After bringing the game within three goals to start the second half, the Hokies let the game slip away from them in the crucial minutes. The team allowed three separate multiple-goal scoring streaks, the last being two more daggers with less than two minutes left in the game to close it all out, 17-8.
Who stood out?
Among a balanced attack on offense, the three players with hat tricks stood out among the rest — scoring nine goals between them and being a part of 13 of the team’s 17 goals on the day.
McCool was one of them. The senior leader and midfielder knotted a trio of goals, but that wasn’t her only contribution. She also secured 13 draw controls and had two assists, being at least a part of five goals for the day.
Bill was another who had a solid day. The oldest player on the team, who has battled significant injury while a Tar Heel, scored the first goal of the game to go ahead early. She scored another early in the second half and put her team up by eight goals with her final goal of the day halfway through the final period.
Ortega, the first-year phenom and this season’s ACC Rookie of the Year, was another player to have a major contribution to the win. By putting away three goals, she has now scored 61 goals this season, the most on the team.
Why does it matter?
As they advance on, the Tar Heels have now won 10 straight games this season. The last time the team lost was on March 24, when the team fell at Boston College. UNC has consistently shown it is one of the best teams this year. All that is left to be decided is how far they might make it into the finals teams playing for a national championship.
When do they play next?
North Carolina will take on Northwestern next on May 19 at 1 p.m. in Chapel Hill. Earlier this season, the Tar Heels took down the Wildcats 18-13 in Evanston, Ill.
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