CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Over the past two seasons, just one team has beaten the Maryland women's lacrosse team: North Carolina. Last season, it was the Tar Heels who spoiled the Terps' perfect year in the NCAA tournament final. On Saturday, No. 1 North Carolina won the rematch.
The Tar Heels' 17-15 win over No. 2 Maryland was the Atlantic Coast Conference rivals' first meeting since the longest championship game in tournament history ended with a 13-12 North Carolina win in triple overtime. And there was deja vu Saturday, Tar Heels senior attacker Abbey Friend said, when North Carolina goalkeeper Megan Ward (St. Mary's) entered the game and slowed the Maryland attack, just as she had last year.
Goalie play jumped out at Maryland coach Cathy Reese as she skimmed the final stats after the game.
"Well, we made three saves today," she said. "Our defense gave up too many easy opportunities, and we need to play better defensively. Our offense generated a lot of looks, their goalies played great, they made a lot of saves and we fell short on the defensive end."
The Terps (13-1, 4-1) gave up more goals Saturday at Fetzer Field than they had in any game since April 22, 2007, a 21-17 win vs. Virginia Tech. The 17 goals Maryland surrendered were the most in a loss since March 12, 2002, when it lost to Virginia, 17-16.
"Our communication just wasn't there like it normally is," sophomore defender Alice Mercer (Century) said. "We just weren't playing our usual Maryland team defense."
The Terps started well, scoring in the game's first minute and running out to an 8-3 lead with 13:54 left in the first half. The Tar Heels (12-1, 5-0) — coming off their first loss in nearly a year, a 7-5 defeat Monday at No. 7 Northwestern — answered with a goal from Friend, who snapped off a shot from the top of the crease. With Maryland leading 8-4, North Carolina Jenny Levy called timeout and made two key changes.
First, she put Ward in goal, The sophomore finished with nine saves, allowing seven goals in 41:15, after the Tar Heels had allowed eight goals in the first 18:45.
North Carolina also went with freshman midfielder Maggie Bill at the draw circle. The Tar Heels had won just two of 12 draws up to that point; they won after, compared to 14 for Maryland.
The Tar Heels also tweaked their defensive strategy, deciding to guard the Terps behind the goal rather than give them space behind the net. Maryland's wide-open cutters in front of the crease soon started to disappear.
The Terps lost their lead for good early in the second half as North Carolina scored the period's first five goals. By the time junior midfielder Kelly McPartland ended the Tar Heels' run with a goal off of a free-position shot, Maryland trailed 14-11 with 14:43 left.
McPartland and sophomore midfielder Taylor Cummings (McDonogh) led the Terps with four goals apiece. Freshman midfielder Zoe Stukenberg (Marriotts Ridge) added a hat trick as well.
Saturday's meeting was the teams' last in ACC regular-season play, but the Terps plan on seeing the Tar Heels again at some point in postseason play, whether it's in the ACC or NCAA Tournament, or both, as it was last year.
"We're going to see them again," McPartland said. "We've just got to fix what we did wrong today, and we'll move on from there."