TOWSON, Md. — If only two more of the North Carolina women’s lacrosse team's 21 shots on goal had gone in, then the Tar Heels would have been playing for a national championship on Sunday.
That’s the takeaway from Friday’s NCAA Tournament semifinal game: if only. If only this had happened. If only that had happened. But that’s not the way the ball bounced for the Tar Heels in their 11-10 loss to Boston College on Friday.
This year's team had a chance to become the first in program history to have a perfect season but was stopped short one game from the national championship. The Tar Heels had the ingredients to win it all: a powerful offense, a stingy defense, postseason experience and a Hall of Fame coach. They had everything.
But what no one anticipated was the outstanding play that Boston College junior goalkeeper Rachel Hall would have. She notched 11 saves in the Eagles' victory at Johnny Unitas Stadium on the campus of Towson University.
“Rachel is an unbelievable goalie, and I think the game ball goes to her,” Boston College junior attacker Jenn Medjid said. “I think just seeing her make those ridiculous saves, it just pumped up me and all my teammates for us to just finish the job.”
If only Hall didn’t have a career day, who knows what the outcome would have been.
Owning a 3-1 lead less than six minutes into the game, UNC had the momentum and was on the brink of breaking the game open. But Hall made an incredible save off a shot from senior attacker Katie Hoeg on the crease right in front of her face, which flipped the script for Boston College.
Following that save, the Eagles scored five goals in less than 13 minutes to take a 6-4 lead and control of the game. Meanwhile, UNC’s momentum was completely stopped. The Tar Heels scored only one goal in that same 14-minute span as Hall stifled the UNC offense with one stellar save after another.
The Tar Heels were on the verge of a comeback in the final five minutes of the game after trimming the Boston College lead to two at 11-9. But there was Hall again. She stuffed two UNC shots in the final five minutes to thwart the Tar Heels' rally.
If only just one of those shots had found the back of the net, the Tar Heels could have scored another to tie the game and complete the comeback.
“I think it just shows anyone can beat anyone on any given day," first-year attacker Caitlyn Wurzburger said. "We played a great, great Boston College team, and we've gotten everyone's best game the entire year, so we always know going into a game to respect the other team.”
For the Tar Heels, Hoeg gave it her all every game, including what would be her last wearing Carolina Blue. UNC’s all-time leader in assists tried to will her team to the championship. The UNC attacker finished with four points off three goals and an assist and finished her storied career as one of the legends of the North Carolina women’s lacrosse program.
“Integrity, character, work ethic, passion for the game," head coach Jenny Levy said. "She's just great. We've loved her. She's had an unbelievable career, and she manages her business day in and day out in a very noble way, and she's been a great leader for our entire program for five years.”
For Hoeg and everyone else on this Tar Heel team, they leave Towson with the same thought in their minds.