UNC upsets Maryland for women's lax national championship

UNC upsets Maryland for women's lax national championship

From UNC

CHESTER, PA.—Most Outstanding Player Aly Messinger tied her career high with six points and Megan Ward made a career-high 14 saves as North Carolina beat Maryland, 13-7, in the NCAA women's lacrosse championship game at Talen Energy Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

The Tar Heels (20-2) captured their second national championship, joining the 2013 title.  Carolina has won 17 consecutive games, the longest winning streak in program history, and its 20 wins are the most in school history.  Carolina improved to 4-2 in the NCAA Tournament against the Terrapins, who fell to 22-1 this season. The win snapped a three-game losing streak in the series for UNC and ended Maryland's 26-game winning streak.

Carolina handed Maryland its biggest margin of defeat since March 13, 2007, and scored the most goals against Maryland in a game since the Tar Heels beat the Terps, 17-15, on April 5, 2014.

"I'm very proud of the coaching staff that we have and my team," head coach Jenny Levy said afterward. "And we were just gritty and tough all year, and today's game was no different. We've been in tight games all year. I think we've played nine one-goal games and all year long we've believed we've worked hard and we found ways to win, which I think is a great thing.

"I don't even know what the final score was, because you feel in those games that it's tight all the way to the end. Congratulations to my team. They've worked hard all year and they're gutsy and they're tough. I think probably one percent out there believed that we might pull this off today and that one percent was sitting in our locker room all year.  Maryland is a great team, and we had to play our best to beat them."

Messinger set a career high in assists in the first half and finished with two goals and four assists to tie her career scoring high.  Carly Reed had two goals and two assists, Molly Hendrick scored three times and Marie McCool had a goal and two assists for UNC. Ela Hazar had two goals and an assist, Sammy Jo Tracy added two goals and Devin Markison added her second goal of the season.

Megan Whittle led Maryland with three goals and Caroline Steele had two goals.  Zoe Stukenberg had a goal and an assist and Taylor Cummings scored once.  Maryland has scored less than 10 goals only twice this season. Both times have been against the Tar Heels.

Ward started in goal for the Tar Heels, making seven first-half saves and finishing with a career-high 14 overall.   She has a total of 22 saves in her three NCAA title game appearances with a 2-1 mark in those games. Ward joined Messinger, Reed and McCool on the NCAA All-Tournament Team.

UNC improved to 2-2 in NCAA championship games in the third meeting of these schools in the national title game in four years.  Members of the 2016 Tar Heel senior class improved to 12-2 in NCAA Tournament play, capturing national titles in 2013 as freshmen and this spring as seniors.

The Tar Heels started well and continued through much of the first half, going on a 6-0 run after Maryland had taken a 1-0 lead on a free position goal by Stukenberg in the opening two minutes. During the run, Messinger had four assists and five UNC players scored goals, including two by Tracy.

After Carolina had taken a 6-1 lead with 9:45 to go before halftime, the Terrapins closed the half on a 3-0 run (including two goals by Whittle) to make it 6-4. Ward made a save in the closing seconds to preserve the two-goal lead at the break.

Messinger started the second half with a pretty, stop-and-go goal that made the score 7-4.  Whittle and Cummings scored back-to-back goals for the Terps in less than two minutes to cut the lead to one at 7-6 with 23:24 to go, but the Tar Heels responded with a 5-0 run to take a 12-6 lead with 10:23 remaining.  Each team scored in the final 10 minutes for the final margin of 13-7.