UNC knocked out by N'western in NCAA lacrosse semifinal


NCAA Northwestern N Carolina Lacrosse

Northwestern attacker Shannon Smith, 3, dodges past a North Carolina defender in the NCAA Division I Women's Lacrosse semifinals at LaValle Stadium, Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, N.Y., Friday, May 27, 2011. (AP Photo/Newsday, Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke) NO SALES NYC LOCALS OUT


— One goal away from lax heaven, North Carolina’s season instead ended in heartbreak.

Shannon Smith scored four goals, including the winner with 19 seconds left, as No. 1 Northwestern earned an 11-10 win over No. 3 North Carolina in an NCAA women’s lacrosse national semifinal. The game, played at Stony Brook University’s LaValle Stadium on Friday night, was played in front of 7,458 spectators.

Northwestern (20-2), which had its run of five straight national championships snapped by Maryland last season, earned a rematch with the Terrapins at 4 p.m. on Sunday.

Laura Zimmerman (15-6) led the Tar Heels with four goals and one assist, Becky Lynch and Abby Friend each scored two goals, and Corey Donohoe added a goal and two assists. Zimmerman tied the game at 10 on a man-up goal, assisted by Emily Garrity, with 7:13 to play. The teams remained tied until Smith, a Tewaaraton Award finalist, split a pair of UNC defenders, and shot high over the stick of Tar Heels’ goalie Lauren Maksym nearly seven minutes later.

“We just wanted as a unit to stay calm and focus on the little details,” Donohoe said. “Of course, by the end of the game, the stakes are higher, so of course you’re going to get tense.”

Brooke Matthews scored on a free position to give the Wildcats a 4-1 lead with 17:01 left in the first half. The three-goal lead was the largest for either team until Erin Fitzgerald (three goals) gave Northwestern a 10-7 lead with 12:09 to play.

The teams were tied at 6 and 7 early in the second, before two goals from Fitzgerald sandwiched around one from Ali Cassera put Northwestern up by three.

Zimmerman and Brittney Coppa each scored man-up goals to close the gap to 10-9 before Zimmerman’s equalizer. Tied for nearly seven minutes until the game-winner, Zimmerman said the Heels were well versed in such situations.

“We’ll do different situations in practice, up a goal with two minutes left or down a goal with two minutes left,” the junior middie said. “We practice the different situations and how to get a feel for that type of pressure.”

But on this day, Smith handled it just a little better. She held the ball behind the net for nearly two minutes on the last possession before making her move around the cage for her 14th goal of the tournament – tops in the country.

Said UNC coach Jenny Levy: “She’s just a big, strong player who’s very tough to handle.”

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