In a Saturday afternoon matchup between two ACC heavyweights, the No. 3 UNC women’s lacrosse team (5-1, 1-0 ACC) defeated No. 5 UVA (6-2, 0-2 ACC) in what will be regarded as a memorable 13-12 shootout.
On a special day in which they wore pink in honor of their annual Breast Cancer Awareness game, the Tar Heels displayed a dynamic offensive attack on their way to a second top-10 victory in seven days. After taking down then-No. 5 Northwestern last week in their inaugural game in the new UNC Lacrosse Stadium, Saturday’s victory over the nation’s No. 5 ranked team firmly established the Tar Heels as one of the nation’s top teams.
The Cavaliers struck first in this elite ACC matchup, with senior Avery Shoemaker putting Virginia up 1-0 a mere four minutes into the matchup. It did not take long, however, for the Tar Heels to respond and even the score. Sophomore Taylor McDaniels found the back of the net with 25:19 left in the half to knot the game at 1-1. The initial goal by McDaniels started off what would end up being a commanding four-goal half for the sophomore
After a few minutes of stagnant offense, UNC took its first lead of the game with the help of Tayler Warehime. The first-year attacker scored her ninth career goal to give Tar Heels the 2-1 advantage.
Shoemaker continued her impressive performance for UVA, scoring her second goal of the day and evening the score at 2-2.
Just when it seemed as if neither team could gain a significant momentum, the Tar Heels rattled off three crucial goals to jump out to a 5-2 lead. The offense was catalyzed by McDaniels, who took matters into her own hands and scored all three goals unassisted.
The first half, and game as a whole, was characterized by each team trading blows back and forth. With significant pressure applied to the Virginia offense, the Cavaliers answered the call and snuck two more goals past UNC sophomore goalkeeper Taylor Moreno. The score was only 5-4 for a brief minute before junior Katie Hoeg slipped behind her defender and rifled in a shot, giving the Tar Heels some space to breath with a 6-4 edge over the Cavaliers.
The dizzying display of offense could not be stopped in the final minutes of the first half. UVA scored what it thought would be a decisive goal with 1:35 remaining in the half to bring the score back to 6-5. Despite the Cavaliers best efforts, the Tar Heels would not be outdone on their new home field. Standout sophomore Jamie Ortega placed an exclamation point on the half, scoring her first goal of the day with defenders draped all over her. After a staggering 10 point performance last week against Northwestern, Ortega’s goal allowed the Tar Heels to enter the break with a hard fought 7-5 lead.
Saturday undoubtedly featured a game of runs, and UNC began the second half on a formidable run of their own. North Carolina quickly netted two goals to grab a 9-5 lead. But in keeping with the makeup of this matchup, UVA was unfazed by the deficit and mounted a comeback campaign of its own. With 23:36 left in the second half, the Cavaliers had already shrunk the Tar Heel lead and remained within striking distance while trailing 9-7.
The two ACC rivals continued to trade goals, keeping the Tar Heel lead at two. In what was clearly an impassioned effort from both sides, as each goal from one team seemed to inspire the other to find the back of the net for themselves in an entertaining demonstration of one-upmanship. This barrage of offense eventually tipped UVA’s favor, with Maggie Jackson scoring her third goal of the day and allowing the Cavaliers to lock the game at 11-11 with 11:35 remaining in the second half.
Shoemaker then gave the Cavaliers the lead with her fourth goal of the day. The 12-11 UVA advantage with under ten minutes to go in the game marked its first lead since taking the 1-0 advantage to begin the game.
However, this back and forth affair was decided by which team could make the final run. A series of crucial stops by the defense and two massive saves by Moreno gave UNC space to make one final push. Jamie Ortega and Warehime spearheaded a gutsy final series in which the Tar Heels roared back to claim a 13-12 victory.
Who stood out?
Despite only having five collegiate games under her belt, Warehime came through in a big way for the Tar Heels when they needed it most. She walked off the field on Saturday with a hat trick, a game-winning goal, and the respect of her coaches and teammates.
“If she can get her hands on the ball, I know she’s going to finish,” head coach Jenny Levy said when asked about Warehime’s game-winning goal with 5:35 left to go. “It wasn’t a surprise to us, Taylor’s very calm and poised.”
When asked about the feeling of securing a major win for her team, she acknowledged her success as a product of the team’s chemistry.
“Scottie Growney cut for me and got me open,” Warehime said when describing the play. “So that was her goal.”
When was it decided?
With 6:55 left in the second half and the game hanging in the balance, the Tar Heels trailed by one and appeared to have ceded momentum. It was at this moment that Levy’s team showed its true colors. The Tar Heels fired off two quick goals to retake the lead, but the deciding moment of the game came on the other side of the ball. While holding the 13-12 lead, UNC gave UVA a chance at a free position shot with 2:32 remaining and the chance to send the game into overtime. Moreno, the team's goalkeeper admitted that the high-scoring game was not her best holistic performance, but knew in that moment that she needed to step up.
“I wasn’t really having a great day saving the ball,” Moreno said. “So I knew that if there was one shot I needed to save today, it should be that one.”
She made the save, and put the game on ice for the Tar Heels. Coach Levy explained how this late-game performance speaks volumes to Moreno’s ability.
“She’s a stud,” Levy said bluntly. “Big players show up in big moments.”
Why does it matter?
This matchup not only had major implications in ACC play, but also served as a litmus test for how the Tar Heels would respond to a postseason type atmosphere. For Levy, the game showed that her team can still come away with wins despite the occasional sloppy play.
“I thought we could play better in moments,” Levy said of the team’s second half effort. “But I thought we got saves when we needed to get saves, we got stops when we needed to get stops, and obviously scored two key goals down the stretch.”
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will have little time to dwell on their victory before they return to action this week. A short trek over to Elon will set the scene for a Tuesday afternoon showdown between in-state foes. The game begins at 4 p.m. and will see UNC attempt to go 6-1 to start the season.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.