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UNC women’s lacrosse finishes regular season with 13-12 rivalry victory over Duke

UNC freshman midfielder Ellie Traggio (22) runs down the field with possession of the ball during the women’s lacrosse game against Syracuse at Dorrance Field on Saturday, April 15, 2023. Syracuse defeated UNC 14-12.

DURHAM, N.C. — The No. 6 North Carolina women’s lacrosse team (12-3, 7-2 ACC) wrapped up its regular season with a 13-12 win over Duke (7-9, 1-8 ACC) at Koskinen Stadium on Thursday evening.

What happened?

Duke attacker Eva Greco got the Blue Devils on the board first four minutes into the game, but UNC senior midfielder Olivia Dirks responded two minutes later with a solo score. Duke attacker Maddie Jenner answered right back with an unassisted goal to put the Blue Devils up 2-1.

A huge save by Duke first-year goalkeeper Madison Drebing led to Duke midfielder Katie Keller dancing her way in for a solo goal. Keller then converted a free position shot and UNC head coach Jenny Levy called timeout.

Dirks had a promising right side look towards the end of the first quarter but Drebing picked up another save. With 2.9 seconds left, Greco notched her second goal to put Duke up 5-1 heading into the second frame.

UNC redshirt sophomore attacker Reilly Casey found the back of the net early in the second quarter and less than a minute later, junior midfielder Alyssa Long connected on a goal to trim the deficit to two goals. Jenner lasered in a shot midway through the quarter to extend Duke’s lead to 6-3.

The Tar Heels forced consecutive shot clock violations to slow Duke’s momentum as halftime approached, with first-year midfielder Kaleigh Harden sneaking in a goal. Long fired a shot into the back of the cage as time expired and UNC trailed 5-6 at halftime.

UNC senior attacker Melissa Sconone evened the game up three minutes into the third quarter and the Tar Heels took their first lead of the night when Casey found Sconone for another goal. The Blue Devils scored on a man-down opportunity from defender Maddie Johnston, tying it at 7-7 midway through the third frame.

The back-and-forth quarter continued as Jenner and UNC junior attacker Caitlyn Wurzburger traded scores. Jenner then found attacker Caroline DeBellis for a goal, but Long answered with a score to complete a hat trick. Graduate attacker Lauren Figura capped off the third quarter with a goal and North Carolina led 10-9.

Jenner connected with DeBellis once again just a minute into the final frame to tie it at 10-10 and Drebing saved UNC senior midfielder Nicole Humphrey’s free position shot. With under 10 minutes to play, Duke attacker Carly Bernstein lobbed a cross-crease pass to Maddie McCorkle, who scored.

Harden scored back-to-back goals with under seven minutes to play and first-year attacker Marissa White extended North Carolina’s lead to 13-11. Duke midfielder Lexi Schmalz buried a free position shot and Levy called timeout with three minutes left. From there, despite the Blue Devils having numerous chances to tie the game up, neither team scored again.

Who stood out?

Long and Harden led UNC’s offense with a hat trick each, while Nalls picked up four ground balls and won four draw controls.

Jenner, DeBellis and Greco spearheaded Duke’s scoring by combining for eight goals. Jenner also dished out two assists.

When was it decided?

Despite the Tar Heels being heavily favored in this matchup, the bout was ultimately decided in the final minutes. With a 13-12 lead and under 50 seconds left, Casey committed an unforced error. Duke called timeout but couldn’t tie the game up.

Why does it matter?

After snapping its 41-game home win streak against top-ranked Syracuse last Saturday, a gritty win to conclude the regular season may help the Tar Heels regain momentum as they continue their quest for a national title defense.

When do they play next?

Next Wednesday, the Tar Heels will open up postseason play in the quarterfinals of the 2023 Ally ACC Tournament at American Legion Memorial Stadium in Charlotte. Their opponent is to be determined.


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Daniel Wei

Daniel Wei is a 2023-24 assistant sports editor at The Daily Tar Heel. He has previously served as a senior writer. Daniel is a junior pursuing a double major in business administration and economics.