March 22, 2014

Messinger Delivers Game-Winner for No. 1 UNC

by Arielle Aronson |

While North Carolina took home the victory on the road, Boston College is the first team to play the defending champions so close all season. (Bryce Vickmark)

In-Game Blog Recap


NEWTON, Mass. -- It took until the last minute, but the No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels kept their 14-game win streak alive Saturday afternoon when they topped No. 4 Boston College, 14-13. Sophomore attacker Aly Messinger netted the game-winner on a free position shot with 28 seconds remaining in regulation.

Messinger scored five goals and recorded an assist in the game as the Tar Heels improved to 10-0 on the season – a program record – but beating BC (7-2) was no easy task.

“I thought the game probably could have gone either way,” said UNC coach Jenny Levy. “BC has a lot of swagger, a lot of confidence. They have a plan, they play to their strengths and they challenge you for everything on the field. It made for a great game.”

Indeed, play was tight all afternoon. UNC scored twice in the first 32 seconds to jump out to a 2-0 lead, but BC answered with two goals of its own to knot the score at 2-2 4:10 into the game. Neither team was able to earn more than two goals of separation for the rest of the first half, which ended with UNC leading, 8-7.

The first 10 minutes of the second half featured much of the same back-and-forth action, but when UNC began to buckle down on draws in an attempt to earn more possession time, the Tar Heels were able to finally establish some separation on the scoreboard. Senior attacker Abbey Friend scored twice and freshman attacker Sydney Holman scored once to give the Tar Heels a 12-9 lead.

“The key for us was possession,” Levy said. “Early in the first half we didn’t do a great job on the draw. Then in the second, we finally started getting some draws, got some stops in the cage. Our goalie made some great saves and we were able to turn those possessions into goals on the other end.”

But the UNC lead did not last long. BC sophomore midfielder Sarah Mannelly took charge of momentum and tightened the UNC lead to 12-10 with 14:33 left thanks to her fourth goal of the day. She forced a UNC turnover on the following play and passed to attacker Brooke Blue, who beat UNC goalkeeper Caylee Waters to cut the Tar Heel lead to 12-11. The Eagles tied the game with 10:27 remaining in regulation when senior attacker Moira Barry converted on a free position chance.

The Tar Heels broke the tie nearly seven minutes later when Messinger bounced a low shot past BC goalkeeper Emily Mata to put UNC up, 13-12, with 3:34 to play.  

But Eagles junior midfielder Mikaela Rix proved the Eagles were not done yet. She re-tied the game when she whipped a shot past Waters from the far left side with 2:27 remaining.

UNC held onto possession off the following draw as they let the clock wind down to the 28-second mark, when Messinger converted off a foul against Mannelly to net the game-winner.

Saturday’s contest was the closest game for UNC since its triple-overtime win over Maryland in last year’s national championship game, and it marked the first time this season that the Tar Heels won by fewer than four goals.

While Boston College was unable to pull off the upset, coach Acacia Walker said the Eagles will use the loss as an effort to build on.

“Losing is not accepted in our culture,” Walker said. “But as long as we stay committed to what we’re working on then it’s something to be proud of. There’s no real acceptance of the loss, but I think it just creates a little bit of drive and fuel for our team so we just have to do a couple things better here and there and maybe the outcome will be different next time.”

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