Monday, 23 October 2017

Finishing flourish lifts Tar Heels to ACC women’s lacrosse championship –

When some teams turn it on, the flow resembles that from a faucet. When North Carolina’s elegant women’s lacrosse team turns it on, the flow more closely resembles that from a fire hydrant.

A flood of second-half goals — nine in a row during a span of 12 minutes — carried the top-seeded and No. 3-ranked Tar Heels to an 18-11 victory over second-seeded Syracuse in Sunday’s ACC tournament championship game at Sports Backers Stadium. The ACC title was UNC’s second in as many years.

North Carolina put all of its abundant talent on display while rallying from a two-goal deficit with 18:37 remaining. Playing with passion, precision and more than a bit of flair, the Tar Heels smothered the Orange at one end of the field and overwhelmed them at the other.

“I love this team. It’s a ton of fun to play with these girls. We have so much belief and trust in each other,” said senior attack Molly Hendrick, the tournament MVP who lit North Carolina’s fuse with seven goals and a pair of assists.

Said Hendrick: “We never doubted. Even when we were down, we knew we had the ability to come back.”

Hendrick, who matched her career high for goals in a game and established a career high with 9 points, crammed three of her seven goals and one of her assists into UNC’s incandescent finish. She said she merely took what the game gave her. At no point, she said, did she step beyond the parameters of the game plan in an attempt to take command.

Tar Heels coach Jenny Levy didn’t entirely agree.

“She’ll say winning the ACC championship means more to her than anything she did as an individual,” said Levy. “But I can say this: Some of the individual plays she made are a big reason why we won.”

The Tar Heels (16-2) rallied from an almost immediate 4-0 deficit to carry a 7-6 advantage into intermission. UNC scored the last three goals of the first half, including a free-position tally by Hendrick with 23 seconds remaining.

Refinements made during halftime, Levy said, enabled North Carolina’s offense to flow freely in the second half. In particular, she adjusted the path of interior cutters and often unfurled an offense that did not place a player directly behind the Orange goal.

“Offensively, we were a little out of sync” during the first half, she said. “But it’s a long game” — two 30-minute halves — “and we felt like we’d have enough time to work through some things” as the contest unfolded.

UNC’s second-half surge wasn’t constructed entirely on offense. The Tar Heels did not allow a goal in the final 18½ minutes. A 13-4 edge in second-half draw controls enabled them to dominate not only time of possession but also tempo. By game’s end, No. 10-ranked Syracuse (15-6) was laboring to keep up.

Carly Reed scored four goals for North Carolina. Sydney Holman added three goals and three assists. Devon Parker and Riley Donahue scored two goals apiece for Syracuse.

North Carolina captured the ACC’s automatic invitation to the upcoming NCAA Division I tournament. Syracuse is virtually assured of a berth in the 44-team field. Virginia (11-8) is regarded as a very strong candidate. Virginia Tech (11-8) is seen as a bubble team.

NCAA invitations will be distributed next Sunday.

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