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No. 1 UNC women's lacrosse snaps 29-game winning streak with loss at No. 3 Northwestern

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The UNC women’s lacrosse team huddles after a goal during the game against UF on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023, at Dorrance Field. UNC beat UF 12-5.

The No. 1 North Carolina women's lacrosse team (7-1, 4-0 ACC) snapped its 29-game, multi-season winning streak on Sunday with a 13-9 loss to No. 3 Northwestern (8-1, 1-0 Big Ten) in Evanston, Ill.

What happened?

Neither defense gave an inch as the game remained scoreless for nearly the entire first quarter. Northwestern outshot UNC, but the Tar Heels continued to show why they boast one of the best scoring defenses in the country, collapsing in on every run at the goal. Finally, the Wildcats found the back of the net as Emerson Bohlig and Hailey Rhatigan both scored in the final minute of the first quarter.

Northwestern's Elle Hansen scored off another free position shot to open up second-quarter scoring, and UNC responded by winning its first draw control of the game and scoring its first goal from first-year Caroline Godine.

That awoke something in Northwestern's Izzy Scane, the nation's leading goal scorer. The fifth-year attacker immediately ripped off two straight unassisted goals to put Northwestern up 5-1 with 12:22 remaining in the half. A few minutes later, Erin Coykendall scored on another free position shot to further extend the lead.

Godine scored again with 6:53 remaining in the half to cut the deficit to four, and the two teams were off to the races from there. Scane and junior midfielder Alyssa long traded unassisted goals and Coykendall scored for a second time.

After going into halftime up 8-4, Northwestern scored the first two goals of the second half. UNC attacker Caitlyn Wurzburger kept the Tar Heels in the game with her first goal halfway through the third quarter. With two minutes remaining in the third, senior midfielder Nicole Humphrey scored from the right side to make the score 10-6 heading into the final period.

UNC's Reilly Casey drew a foul and scored from the 8-meter to cut the deficit to three goals and keep the comeback bid alive. Rhatigan picked up a yellow card following that score, and Mottice capitalized on the player-up opportunity with a perfectly placed shot from the right side to make it 10-8.

But just when UNC seemed like it had the spark it needed, Scane was there to extinguish the flame. After receiving the ball from the left corner of the goal, she cut up the center of the field and rifled a shot through three defenders and into the back of the net.

From there, the Wildcats preserved their lead to come away with the victory

Who stood out?

Scane was the best player on the field and notched a first-half hat trick to prove it. She finished the game with a five-point performance. After missing the entire 2022 season because of a torn ACL, the veteran posed a new threat to this relatively inexperienced UNC team.

Godine, who has impressed in limited playing time during her first year at UNC, was a silver lining for the Tar Heels with three goals.

When was it decided?

Once Scane and Rhatigan got hot, the Tar Heels found themselves chasing a runaway train.

When Scane scored while being triple-teamed to break UNC's four-goal run, the writing was on the wall. 

Why does it matter?

Northwestern outplayed North Carolina top to bottom on Sunday, dominating on draw controls, forcing turnovers and winning 50-50 balls to get out to an early lead.

The Tar Heels struggled to make passes and turned the ball over five times in the first quarter. Sloppy ball movement forced the UNC offense into a lot of isolation plays that were snuffed out by the Northwestern defense.

UNC played without sophomore defender Brooklyn Walker-Welch, putting even more pressure on North Carolina's defense to contain Northwestern's dangerous scoring offense. While UNC initially seemed ready to step up to the challenge, it took too long for the offense to settle into rhythm.

When do they play next?

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North Carolina will return to Chapel Hill on Thursday to face off against High Point at 6 p.m.

@lucasthomae

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com


Lucas Thomae

Lucas Thomae is the 2023-24 sports managing editor at The Daily Tar Heel. He has previously served as an assistant sports editor and summer editor. Lucas is a senior pursuing a major in journalism and media with a minor in data science.