May 26, 2013

UNC Beats Maryland in Triple OT to Take First National Title

by Mark Macyk | | Live Blog Replay

* Long Time Coming, but Tar Heels Claim Crown
* Howard Keeps Terps in it Until End

VILLANOVA, Pa. — Mia Hamm tweeted her support to the North Carolina women's lacrosse team before Sunday's NCAA Division I championship game against Maryland.

Afterward, Kara Cannizzaro, the Tar Heels' senior captain midfielder and Tewaaraton Award finalist, reflected on what it will be like for her team to enter the pantheon of UNC athletic greatness, alongside stars like Hamm, who won four NCAA titles with UNC's soccer team.

Tewaaraton Award finalist Kara Cannizzaro led all scorers with four goals and two assists Sunday night in North Carolina's 13-12 win over Maryland.
© Lee Weissman

"I think it's nice that we get to put a little plaque up next to our women's soccer team," Cannizzaro said. "Like 25 national championships. But this gives us one."

What a one it was.

Sammy Jo Tracy delivered the game-winner off an assist from Brittney Coppa 31 seconds into the third six-minute overtime to give the Tar Heels a 13-12 victory and end the longest women's lacrosse championship game in NCAA history, in front of 9,391 fans at Villanova Stadium.

Tracy's winner was set up by another freshman, goalie Megan Ward. Maryland won the draw to begin the frame and Ward stoned Brooke Griffin on a breakaway.

"I knew if I made the save the attack would come down and score it," Ward said.

UNC cleared and less than 20 seconds later the Tar Heels were celebrating.

The championship ended later than your typical lacrosse tilt — around 11 p.m. — but Tracy, a freshman who played in 18 of 21 games this season, said she'd been well-prepared for late night heroics, although UNC coach Jenny Levy said, "I don't have 11 o'clock practices."

Maybe they don't, but whatever they're doing down there in Chapel Hill, it's working. The Tar Heels lost just three times this year, twice to Maryland.

"We tried not to create any stories." Levy said. "It wasn't about revenge. It wasn't about "It's hard to beat a team three times.' There aren't any stories. We didn't talk about anything except for how we wanted to play the game."

The Tar Heels dominated throughout the various overtime frames, and had several chances to win, but the efforts of Maryland goalie Kasey Howard, who made four of her five saves after regulation ended, kept the Terps alive.

Maryland had the ball at the end of regulation and in both three-minute mandatory halves of the first overtime, but couldn't find its good shot.

"It just didn't fall," said Maryland coach Cathy Reese. "I think there were a lot of them throughout the overtime. The goalies came up big. I think this one will probably go down as one of the more exciting national championship games in the history of the sport."

And down as a historic UNC win.

"Forever," Levy said when asked about how long it's been since the Tar Heels have beaten Maryland. "Yeah. Regardless of who we played tonight it feels pretty good."

Cannizzaro led all players with four goals and two assists, Coppa had three goals and one assist and Aly Messinger had three goals for UNC (18-3). Maryland freshman Taylor Cummings had three goals and one assist, Katie Schwarzmann had three goals and Brooke Griffin and Beth Glaros each had two goals for Maryland (22-1).

UNC scored the first three goals of the game and led 9-6 at halftime — the largest deficit Maryland faced all season and the only time it trailed at the break all year. It was also Maryland's only overtime game this season.

"I guess this was a weekend of new experiences for us," Reese said.

The Tar Heels reached the NCAA championship game one other time, in 2009. And North Carolina matched their scoring output for that entire game, a 21-7 loss to Northwestern, with 13:40 remaining in the first half.

The Terps scored five goals in 11 minutes after halftime to take an 11-9 lead. UNC answered with three straight, including back-to-back scores from Cannizzaro to tie it and go up 12-11. Alex Aust faked high and went low to tie it at 12 with 3:51 remaining.

"We tried to keep Maryland on their toes but they score so darn quick," Levy said. "Not everybody get a chance to be in that situation in their lifetime. This game will be memorable for everybody."

The victory means UNC's five seniors, including Cannizzaro, will go out as champions.

And, although she'll be gone, Cannizzaro said she believes the Tar Heels will be adding more plaques soon.

"I have so much confidence that our freshman, our sophomores and our juniors are going to be back next year at the final four and winning national championships," Cannizzaro said. "I'm gonna be there in the stands cheering my heart out."

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