PHILADELPHIA — North Carolina’s players flooded onto the field and swarmed goalie Megan Ward as the clock ran out. The NCAA championship celebration was just beginning.
Then the players embraced their families in the crowd yesterday at Talen Energy Stadium. Marie McCool said this week that her team had “unfinished business in Philly.” She met her mother, who had tears in her eyes.
Outside the Tar Heels’ locker room minutes later, someone yelled, “If you’re not first, you’re last!”
Yesterday, North Carolina was first.
The third-seeded Tar Heels (20-2) upset top-seeded Maryland, 13-7, to win the the national title in women’s lacrosse.
Molly Hendrick led the Tar Heels with three goals. Carly Reed, Ela Hazar, Sammy Jo Tracy, and Aly Messinger added two goals apiece. Ward made a career-high 14 saves.
Maryland had the chance to become the first team to win three straight titles since Northwestern won five in a row from 2005-09. It could have been a coronation for the Terrapins except the Tar Heels were in their way.
“They were 22-0, I believe, guys,” North Carolina coach Jenny Levy said before Hendrick cut her off.
“And one,” Hendrick said.
For the third time in four years, North Carolina and Maryland played for the title. They split the first two meetings.
The Tar Heels repeatedly found the seams and scored from just outside the crease to build a commanding 6-1 lead. The largest deficit Maryland faced all year was three.
“We were a little happy with our double teams and were leaving a little too early, which left people inside,” Maryland coach Cathy Reese said.
After her team fell behind by five goals, Reese called timeout. North Carolina had taken a five-goal lead, but there still were more than 50 minutes left. Maryland nearly came all the way back. Taylor Cummings scored in transition to cut the deficit to 7-6 with 23 minutes to play.
“We were going to let them go on a run or we were going to buckle down,” Levy said.
North Carolina then scored five straight goals spanning 10 minutes in the middle of the second half put the Terrapins away for good.
Middlebury takes Division III. Middlebury took a 6-0 lead and beat Trinity, 9-5, to win the Division III championship at Talen Energy Stadium. It’s Middlebury’s first title since 2004 and sixth overall.