The No.1 North Carolina women’s lacrosse team (15-0, 8-0 ACC) defeated No. 5 Duke (15-2, 6-2 ACC) 18-4 at Dorrance Field on Thursday night to clinch the ACC regular season title.
Duke attacker Maddie Jenner won her first of many draw controls to begin the game, but Duke could not handle the Tar Heels’ ride as stifling defense by senior attacker Scottie Rose Growney forced a turnover on the first Duke possession.
Off the turnover, redshirt junior midfielder Elizabeth Hillman broke away from her defender and opened the night’s scoring with a unassisted goal past the reach of first-year goalkeeper Kennedy Everson. Soon after, North Carolina padded the lead with a goal from Growney off a pass from fifth-year senior attacker Jamie Ortega.
The Blue Devils quickly answered with two goals within the span of a minute to even the score at 2-2 with 10:16 remaining in the first period.
Following both teams’ scoring bursts, the game’s defensive intensity amped up and resulted in a 9-minute scoring drought until Growney snuck her second goal into the back of the net with 48.9 seconds left.
North Carolina dominated the second period scoring six unanswered goals. Graduate midfielder Ally Mastroianni led the charge with a hat trick in the period while Ortega added two more goals, and Growney had one.
Stellar reflexes by graduate goalkeeper Taylor Moreno and air-tight defense by the Tar Heels perfectly complimented the offensive onslaught as the defensive unit relinquished no goals to the No.1 scoring offense in the nation and forced four turnovers.
Riding the second period’s momentum, North Carolina never took their foot off the gas and continued to pile on goal after goal. Four different Tar Heels scored in the third period, but it was the defense that sealed the game early.
Moreno allowed only two goals in the second half and the Blue Devils could not find a open patch of grass on their offensive possessions as the defense swarmed Duke attackers.
Who stood out?
Growney scored a season-high five goals against the Blue Devils, including a hat trick in the first half and added two more assists to her standout performance.
Both Ortega and Mastroianni notched four goals in the Tar Heels’ 18-goal outing. Ortega also had three assists.
On the defensive end, Moreno was the anchor of a defense that held the nation’s top scoring team to a season-low four goals. She finished with eight saves.
When was it decided?
After a back-and-forth first 15-minutes, the second period proved pivotal for the Tar Heels’ as they broke open the game with six goals and carried a seven-goal lead into halftime. Mastroianni was instrumental in the offensive onslaught as she recorded a three goals, and the Tar Heels’ defense held Duke to only two goals in the first half.
The Tar Heels’ never looked back after halftime and continued to fire on all cylinders ballooning the lead to 11 going into the final period of play.
Why does it matter?
With a win, the Tar Heels’ clinched the ACC regular season title and secured themselves a top seed in next week’s ACC Tournament for the second-straight season. The No.1 seed will benefit the Tar Heels significantly as they look hoist their sixth-straight ACC Tournament trophy.
Additionally, this is the second undefeated regular season campaign in just as many years for head coach Jenny Levy and her squad. North Carolina has now won 41 consecutive regular season games.
When do they play next?
North Carolina will take the field again for their first game of the ACC Tournament on April 29 in Notre Dame, Indiana.
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