Women: N. Carolina 13, Virginia 9

Women’s lacrosse: Dynamite start helps Tar Heels cruise to semifinals

CorrespondentMay 18, 2013 

— North Carolina women’s lacrosse coach Jenny Levy predicted that draw controls and possession would dictate the outcome of the Tar Heels’ NCAA quarterfinal meeting with Virginia. She just didn’t know they would decide it in the game’s opening minute.

The third-seeded Tar Heels needed only 54 seconds to strike for three goals, and from there they cruised to a 13-9 victory against the Cavaliers on Saturday at rain-soaked Fetzer Field.

The Tar Heels (16-3) beat Virginia (11-10) for the eighth straight time dating to 2010, and advanced to the NCAA semifinals for the fourth time in the past five years, where they will play either No. 2 seed Northwestern or No. 3 seed Penn State on Friday in Villanova, Pa.

“The goal of all teams is to make it to the last weekend of the season,” said North Carolina coach Jenny Levy, a Virginia alum and former teammate of Cavaliers coach Julie Myers. “The key to the game today was how we started, obviously. I looked up and we had scored three goals in the first minute.”

North Carolina controlled the first three draws – two of them on violations – to fuel its high-octane transition game. Those three possessions ended with one goal by senior midfielder Kara Cannizzaro and two more by junior attack Abbey Friend, who tied her career highs on the day with five goals and six points, adding one assist. Cannizzaro, North Carolina’s leading scorer this season, finished with three goals and two assists.

The lead reached 4-0 when senior midfielder Emily Garrity converted from close range off freshman attack Aly Messinger’s season-high third assist of day, all by the 26:29 mark, when Myers took a timeout to steady her shell-shocked team.

“Our goal this year, we talked about it a lot, was to come out strong, not let them score the first goal,” Friend said. “I thought it was impressive that we could come out with such a strong start despite the rain delay.”

Friend scored her five goals on just five shots and often found herself shooting from close range at Virginia goalie Kim Kolarik, who registered five saves. Megan Ward had six for North Carolina.

“I attribute the one-one-none to our whole team,” Friend said. “We got out of the defensive end, and the middies did an awesome job of getting the ball upfield.”

The fast start let the Tar Heels dictate tempo the rest of the way.

“There’s a lot of funky rules in women’s lacrosse,” Levy said. “You never know what strategy a team will employ. We’re athletic and like to play fast. I don’t know what Virginia’s strategy was, but it certainly tipped it to the way we wanted to play.”

Although Virginia cut the deficit to 4-2, the Cavaliers never got closer as the Tar Heels ran off the final six goals of the half, two by Friend, to put it out of reach at 10-2.

Two plays summed up the Cavaliers’ frustrations. Virginia’s Ashlee Warner scored an apparent goal to cut the deficit to 6-3, but it was disallowed when a subsequent check by the referee showed Warner was playing with an illegal stick.

“It was an unfortunate situation for us,” Myers said. “When you warm up in the rain, it’s possible for your stick to be legal and then illegal. It was nothing unfair to our team, just unlucky.”

With 15 seconds left in the half, North Carolina’s Morgan Rubin was credited with a goal when a ground ball glanced off Virginia midfielder Morgan Stephens and into the Cavaliers’ net.

Garrity, who earned praise from Levy for her all-around field play (seven draw controls, three caused turnovers and two ground balls), and Brittney Coppa each added two goals for UNC.

Kelly Boyd led Virginia with three goals, while Courtney Swan and Liza Blue had two each. The Cavaliers tallied the game’s final five goals but couldn’t control possession enough throughout, as the Tar Heels led in draw controls (16-8) and ground balls (23-18).

That was a turnaround from the regular-season meeting between the two teams, when Virginia had the edges 12-5 and 13-11.

“It’s probably our weakest showing statistically on the draw,” Myers said. “Usually the team that jumps quickest and works hardest comes up with the ball. Carolina just worked harder. It was something they could capitalize on.”

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