Perennial finalist Northwestern ousted by UNC
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VILLANOVA, Pa. - Erin Fitzgerald's voice cracked, just a little, as she attempted to put her just-ended Northwestern women's lacrosse career into perspective.
"The girls on this team, they become your best friends," said Fitzgerald, a senior attacker from Mount Sinai. "In 10 years, you'll still feel like they're your best friends and nothing will have changed. Really, it's just overall been a great experience."
North Carolina's hybrid defense spoiled Northwestern's title defense with an 11-4 victory in an NCAA Division I semifinal Friday night at Villanova. Kara Cannizzarro had four goals and Megan Ward made seven saves to lead UNC (17-3). Bay Shore's Alyssa Leonard had three draw controls and was one of four players with one goal for Northwestern (19-3).
North Carolina will face Syracuse or Maryland for the NCAA championship, Sunday at 8 p.m. at Villanova. It is the first time since 2005 that Northwestern, winners of the past two titles and seven of eight, will not play in the final game.
Fitzgerald, a two-time NCAA champion and a two-time All-American, will graduate 10th on NU's all-time scoring list.
UNC led, 4-1, at halftime, the fewest goals the Wildcats have scored in a half this season. Northwestern did not score until the 13:33 mark of the first half, the longest it had taken the Wildcats to score all season.
The four goals were the fewest ever in an NCAA Tournament game for Northwestern.
"We really wanted to make them uncomfortable and never let them get into a rhythm," UNC coach Jenny Levy said. "I thought we were poised. I thought we stuck together and executed on things . . . "
Northwestern couldn't convert on the chances it did receive. The Wildcats went 0-for-9 on free-position shots. UNC finished 4-for-5.
"We clearly didn't finish our shots," Northwestern coach Kelly Amonte-Hiller said. "If we make the majority of those, we're winning this game."