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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC women's lacrosse eases past Sacred Heart in first round of NCAA Tournament

UNC senior defender Emily Nalls (1) celebrates with junior attacker Reilly Casey (7) after Casey scored, assisted by Nalls, during the women's lacrosse game against Liberty on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023, at Dorrance Field. UNC beat Liberty 18-6.

The No. 4 seed North Carolina women's lacrosse team (15-4) breezed past Sacred Heart (11-8), 16-5, during the first NCAA tournament round at Dorrance Field in Chapel Hill on Friday afternoon.

What happened? 

The Tar Heels came out strong, despite missing their first two shooting space shots on the 8-meter. First-year Caroline Godine picked up where she left off in the ACC tournament, with 9 minutes left in the first quarter. After a breakaway pass from Walker-Welch, Godine weaved past the Pioneer's defense to make the game 1-0. 

The third shooting space call of the game against Sacred Heart came with 6 minutes left in the first quarter, and this time, the Tar Heels were able to finish. Casey made a clean pass to White as she finished with a stealthy bounce shot.

Casey caught her second goal of the match and her 30th of the season. This was quickly followed by a down-low cut on the crease by Wurzburger, quieting the Sacred Heart defense after a strong few minutes. 

However, Martin ended the quarter well for the Pioneers, with a huge save on a Tar Heel power play, giving them a confidence boost before the second quarter. This did them well, as first-year Maggie Araneo, coming off of her game-winning goal in the NEC tournament final, hit sophomore Alecia Nicholas with her first big shot of the game, making it a 4-1 match. 

Less than two minutes later, Sacred Heart got their second of the day from a post-picking shot to narrow the lead to two.

Walker-Welch came fighting back with a tough ground ball win, keeping the Tar Heel's possession up and wearing Scared Heart down by the minute. Almost identical goals came back-to-back off assists from Sconone and two upper left shots from White and Casey, pulling the lead to 6-2. 

The second quarter was full of back-and-forth goals between the teams, with many upset fans from the Sacred Hearts side due to the numerous calls against the Pioneers. 

Not many things seemed to be going right for the Pioneers as the Tar Heels began pulling away. Things kept going downhill after a disappointing goal for them came as Martin dropped a block on the line, causing the ball to bounce into the goal. 

Overall, Sacred Heart's defense was not able to control this UNC offense. 

Who stood out? 

Senior Melissa Sconone and sophomore Reilly Casey gave the Tar Heels the boost they needed to get the lead in the first half. 

Casey returned from the first half with two goals and two assists but did not stop there, ending the game with five goals and two assists. 

Another hat trick came from first-year Marissa White. 

For the Pioneers, Araneo continued her scoring streak with two goals on the day. 

When was it decided? 

The Tar Heels secured their lead with junior Alyssa Long's goal with five minutes remaining in the third quarter. The team's demeanor changed when their lead went up to 9-5. They slowed down the play, and after a few sloppy mistakes in transition, they settled in. 

North Carolina looked ready for tournament play in the fourth quarter and proved themselves as they steadily grew the lead. Casey's run in the fourth quarter secured the lead, promising the Tar Heel's a second-round game. 

When do they play next? 

The Tar Heels will face the winner of Marquette and Richmond in the second round of the NCAA tournament. 

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