The comeback puts WLAX in the championship game

The comeback puts WLAX in the championship game

BALTIMORE, Md. – A C Sam Geiersbach scored the game-winning goal with 1:03 remaining in Friday’s rainy NCAA women’s lacrosse semifinal to beat Northwestern 15-14, earning Carolina a spot in Sunday’s championship. The top-ranked Tar Heels have improved to 21-0 this season and will be playing for their third NCAA title.

It’s UNC’s first appearance in the championship game since 2016, which was also the last time the Tar Heels won the title.

The Tar Heels will face No. 3 Boston College in Sunday’s title game for the third time this season. The Eagles beat second-seeded Maryland 17-16 in Friday’s second semifinal.

Carolina needed an epic comeback to move forward. Northwestern scored the first six goals of the game and outscored the Tar Heels 10-4 in the first quarter. With 1:11 remaining in the first quarter, a weather delay of one hour and 36 minutes for lightning in the region has begun. NU led, 6-0, after the first period.

UNC didn’t get on the board until a Jamie Ortega A goal early in the second quarter put Northwestern 6-1 with 13:25 to go until halftime. Ally Mastroianni added another for UNC before the Wildcats scored two more to lead 8-2 at halftime. It was the weakest half of the season for Carolina.

After failing to gain ground in the third quarter as Northwestern held a 5-4 advantage, UNC trailed 13-6 heading into the fourth quarter. Mastroianni scored to make it 13-7, then the Wildcats responded to come back up sevens again, 14-7 with 10:15 left in the game.

The final 10 minutes belonged to Carolina, who closed the game on an 8-0 run. Caitlyn Wurzburger scored unassisted with 9:15 remaining to start the assault. Ortega added another a minute later to close the gap to five. Geiersbach then scored his first goal of the game, with 5:27 remaining.

A goal of Scottie Rose Growney, assisted by Ortega, at the five-minute mark, cut Northwestern’s advantage to three, 14-11 Northwestern. Geiersbach scored the final four goals, all unassisted, down the stretch. Its winner gave UNC its first lead of the afternoon.

Ortega finished with three goals and three assists for the Tar Heels and Mastroianni also had three goals. The Tar Heels, who beat Northwestern 20-9 at Chapel Hill in March, held a 40-29 advantage in shooting and led 16-11 in ground balls. They forced the Wildcats to 17 turnovers, including eight in the fourth quarter, while UNC committed just two.

“First off, congratulations to Northwestern on a great season and a great game today,” the UNC head coach said. Jenny Levy said afterwards. “They came out and punched us in the mouth, clearly, and that’s on me. I didn’t have the team ready to roll, and luckily for me, I have some fabulous student-athletes who found a way to win today.

“Overall just an amazing game. We scored 10 of the last 11 goals in the game with so many contributions from so many players, and a lot of effort and refusing to leave. I’m incredibly proud and grateful that we get two more days with this crew.”

Lauren Gilbert led Northwestern with five goals.

UNC has won 21 straight games, the second-longest winning streak in school history. Carolina’s 21 wins break the program’s record for most wins in a season (20 wins in 2016 and 2021). Carolina has won 48 of its last 49 games and 56 of its last 58 overall.

The Tar Heels have improved to 30-10 in the NCAA Tournament over the past 13 years (since 2009), advancing to 10 Final Fours and five National Finals in that span.

Carolina trailed by eight goals twice in the game, the biggest deficit of the season for the Tar Heels. The eight-goal comeback is the most by any team on NCAA Championship weekend since Virginia overcame a nine-goal deficit in the 2007 semifinals to beat Duke.

Tar Heel Goalie Taylor Moreno struggled early, allowing 13 goals on the day in 52:13 of action. First year backup Alecia Nicolas entered the game in the second half in relief for Moreno, playing 7:47 and allowing only one goal before Moreno came back into the game. Moreno made one of the biggest saves of her decorated career when she stopped a point-blank shot from Gilbert with 38 seconds left to preserve UNC’s slim lead. The Tar Heels were able to miss the time limit after Moreno’s decisive save.

• With this victory, the Tar Heels reach their fifth NCAA championship game (2009, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2022). Carolina is 5-9 in the NCAA Semifinals.
• Carolina won for the 48th time in its last 49 games and the 56th in its last 58.
• UNC is 30-10 in the last 13 NCAA tournaments (as of 2009).
• The win was UNC’s 21st of the season, a new UNC single-season record.
• UNC’s current senior class (2018-22) improved to 82-9 in five seasons.
• Carolina improved to 15-0 this season against ranked teams.

Taylor Moreno improved his career record in goal to 69-6. She has started 75 consecutive games in the cage since 2018.
Jamie Ortega has collected at least one point in 84 consecutive games and 89 of 90 in his career.
• Ortega has 464 career points, most in ACC history and second in NCAA history.
• Ortega started his 90th career game, the most starts in school history and the break At Katie Hoeg’s UNC record for most games played in school history.
• With the victory, the head coach Jenny Levy picked her up 39e career NCAA Tournament victory, passing recently retired Princeton’s Chris Sailer for third in sports history.

For the latest updates on Carolina women’s lacrosse, follow the team on Twitter and instagram.

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