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UNC women's lacrosse holds off Virginia in 17-12 win to remain unbeaten

The UNC women’s lacrosse team celebrates after scoring 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 (6-0, 3-0 ACC) defeated No. 9 Virginia (6-1, 2-1 ACC), 17-12, in a midday-shootout at Dorrance on Saturday.

What happened?

Within a minute of the opening draw, UNC found the back of the net on an unassisted strike by junior midfielder Sophie Student. Virginia quickly retaliated with a wrap-around, unassisted goal of their own by attacker Rachel Clark.

Following a Virginia foul, UNC offense countered via an unassisted contribution by junior attacker Caitlyn Wurzburger, her 19th point on 14 shots-on-goal for the season. 

Sophomore goalkeeper Alecia Nicholas manufactured a pair of saves, but a ground ball pickup and drive to the net saw Clark net her second goal of the afternoon. Nearing the end of the first quarter, Clark cashed in a free position opportunity off of the crossbar for an early Virginia hat trick. 

A free position set resulted in North Carolina’s third goal courtesy of senior defender Emily Nalls. Shortly after, junior midfielder Alyssa Long put it past Virginia’s keeper with a low-angle strike for the Tar Heels’ fourth point. Within the final minute, Long’s free position score tied her season high in single-game goals scored, cutting North Carolina’s deficit to one. 

Heading into the second quarter, senior midfielder Olivia Dirks tallied an early free position score. Student continued her prolific offensive stretch with another goal via a quick cut from the right side, allowing UNC to recapture the lead. First-year attacker Caroline Godine showed off her cannon-like shooting ability with two goals in the next 15 minutes alongside senior midfielder Nicole Humphrey. Junior attacker Reilly Casey forced multiple turnovers by UVA’s goalkeeper and was involved in one of UNC’s six successful clears of the half. 

Defensively, Nalls and Nichols held steady for North Carolina, but a second unassisted goal by Virginia’s Jamie Biskup and multiple tallies by Ashlyn McGovern meant a tight 10-8 clip after two quarters. 

The Tar Heels shared the ball well to open the second half. Three total assists from redshirt senior midfielder Elizabeth Hillman, first-year attacker Marissa White and Casey enabled scores by Casey, Hillman, and White ,respectively. Virginia quickly regained momentum with consecutive goals in the span of two minutes, including Clark’s fourth of the contest, forcing a UNC timeout halfway through the third. Nicholas strung together a series of saves to preserve the 13-10 Tar Heel lead, despite offensive stalemate, closing out the quarter. 

Nicholas continued her strong performance into the final 15 minutes, deterring good UVA looks and accumulating eight saves. Defensively, North Carolina forced Virginia attackers into tight corners and induced several wide and high misses. 

With just under five minutes remaining in regulation, UNC’s big lead evaporated by way of McGovern’s second and third tallies of the afternoon. Clinging onto a one-score advantage, Casey’s second goal off of Godine’s assist provided much needed insurance after an insurgent Virginia run. Following a UVA yellow card, Godine’s extra man goal — assisted by Casey — and breakaway capitalized by Wurzburger, assisted by Godine, were the daggers in a scrappy 17-12 victory for UNC. 

Who stood out? 

For the Tar Heels, Godine flashed signs of dominance with a hat trick and two pivotal assists late in the fourth quarter. Casey contributed two goals and matched that metric in assists. 

Student stuffed the stat sheet with a duo of goals and six draw clears. Humphrey capped off the matchup with an unassisted effort to find herself in the multiscore conversation with two goals. 

Including a first-quarter hat trick, Rachel Clark’s four total goals were a game-high for the Cavaliers. McGovern’s pair of crunch time goals were vital to Virginia’s attempted comeback. 

When was it decided?

Despite never conceding the lead, North Carolina had to conjure an aggressive offensive plan heading into the final stretch. 

Head coach Jenny Levy gave props to both her opponent and her team’s resiliency. 

“Virginia’s a great team, very veteran (heavy)," she said. "so we were tasked with making some adjustments and digging out some different parts of the game.”

Netting four goals in the last six minutes, North Carolina decisively clinched victory after an onslaught of strikes from Casey, Godine, and Wurzburger. 

“I was really happy with the timeout and how the team responded to it” coach Levy exclaimed. “It gave (the squad) time to get organized and catch a breath.” 

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Why does it matter?

As a highly anticipated top-10 showdown, North Carolina notched a statement win against their conference foe in Virginia. The Tar Heels look to continue their ACC success, hitting the road against Louisville later this week. 

The Tar Heels also got scoring contributions throughout the lineup, which Levy noted could make the team a dangerous threat throughout the season. 

“Ten different scorers, that’s what makes us good,” Levy said. 

When do they play next?

North Carolina will face Louisville in their first away match of the season on Thursday at 1 p.m. Coverage will be streamed on ACCNX. 


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