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Tar Heels down Terps 17-15 ending bid for perfect season

The Terps raced out to a 7-2 lead but couldn't withstand a 14-4 North Carolina run spanning thirty-four minutes across the first and second halves and fell for the first time this season.

Saturday was just a miserable day to be a Terps fan. Unsurprisingly, the softball team dropped a doubleheader at eighth ranked Florida State 10-2 in the first and 14-6 in the second. The twin losses drop Maryland to 2-8 in the ACC and 3-27 on the season. Then came word that the baseball team also lost its fourth consecutive ACC game in a 5-2 decision at Wake Forest.

I trekked up to State College, PA hoping to see the gym Terps perhaps move into the top four in the NCAA regional only to see them post their lowest score in a month and finish sixth out of six teams in the meet. The next bit of disappointing news came when the Associated Press announced their player of the year as Breanna Stewart who far outdistanced Chiney Ogwumike who finished second in the voting with no mention of Alyssa Thomas.

Surely, the women's lacrosse team would salvage the day for me as the 13-0 Terrapins traveled to Chapel Hill to face 11-1 North Carolina in a rematch of last year's epic three overtime NCAA Championship game. Alas, it was not meant to be as the Tar Heels outscored the Terps 17-15 behind a stellar performance by UNC goalie Megan Ward that shut Maryland down in the second half.

A good start

The game opened much as Maryland wanted with the Terps winning the draw and after their first shot went high, Brooke Griffin found Taylor Cummings open in the right alley on the restart. The sophomore took two slide steps to her left faked right and put her shot inside the upper corner of the far post for a 1-0 Terrapins lead before the game was a minute old.

Carolina bounced back with two straight draw controls and two consecutive goals to grab a 2-1 lead. The Terps then responded as fans have seen them do so often. Kelly McPartland got things started with a score on a free position to even things up at two. It looked as though Zoe Stukenberg had a breakaway on the ensuing draw but UNC's starting goalie Caylee Waters came up with the one on one save. The Terps created a Tar Heels turnover and this time Stukenberg made them pay taking a pass from McPartland and scoring easily from about four yards.

The Terps continued the assault on Carolina's goal despite having a free position hit the pipe on their next possession. Maryland goalie Abby Clipp started a Terrapins' counter with a save on a high shot and the Terps scored quickly. Cummings attacked from the left and as Waters shifted that way, Griffin drifted into open space in front of the net. She took the pass from Cummings and quickly put in the one timer giving Maryland a 4-2 lead on three consecutive scores.

But the Terps weren't done. They stretched the lead to 5-2 when Halle Majorana came around from behind the goal and found Stukenberg in space for the freshman's second score of the day. Cummings took the next draw to herself. Griffin started the offense from behind the goal and Cummings took the pass as she slashed toward the goal registering the fifth straight Terrapins' goal. They made it six straight when Majorana, replicating the move she'd made a few minutes earlier, this time elected to take the shot herself. Maryland led 7-2 with 15:46 to play in the half.

UNC's response

Now it was UNC's turn to respond and they did scoring seven of the next nine led by Abby Friend who picked up a hat trick. During that span, Maryland's goals came from McPartland who provided Maryland's response to Friend's first score and preserve the Terps' five goal lead. After the Heels ran off four straight to close within one at 8-7, Beth Glaros finally broke that string making a strong run starting from just inside the 27 meter line and unleashing a sidearm shot as she fell away from the goal.

After controlling the draw, the Terps got a look at what Ward, who had been inserted into the game just prior to Glaros' shot, would do to them so regularly in the second half. Maryland ran an isolation for McPartland who slipped a bit as she launched her shot and Ward came up with the save. UNC scored back to back goals to tie the score at nine but Maryland would take a 10-9 lead into halftime after another big time save by Ward when Stukenberg picked up her third score of the game off a free position with fifteen seconds to play.

Carolina controls the second half

Maryland got off to a slow start in the second half. Carolina won the opening draw and attacked quickly but Clipp came up big in the goal for the Terps. However, Maryland failed to take advantage and the teams traded turnovers on their next two possessions. Ward continued her hot play for the Tar Heels coming up with a high save on a free position attempt from Glaros. UNC used that, together with the momentum they'd built in the latter stages of the first half, to score and knot the score at ten.

The Terps got a tough break on their next possession when Griffin had a goal waved off for being in the crease after taking a perfect feed from McPartland. Carolina's scoring blitz continued and with 22:29 to play they took the lead for good at 11-10.

In a bad combination for the Terrapins, Ward continued her hot play and Carolina continued to assert the dominance on ground balls they'd established in the first half when they picked up eleven to Maryland's five. They'd match that margin in the second half. This combination led to the Tar Heels scoring three more to take a four goal lead with just under sixteen minutes to play. In scoring the first five goals of the half, North Carolina completed a thirty-four minute run of play during which they outscored Maryland 14-4.

Kelly McPartland ened Carolina's run scoring the Terrapins' first goal of the half with 14:46 to play. Two more saves by Ward - both on shots by Cummings - and two more ground ball pickups sent the Heels on another two score run. Though the Terps scored four of the last five, it was too little too late. With the 17-15 final the Terps suffered their first loss of the season and my reporting on a bad day came to a close.

The Terps will look to get back on track when they travel to Princeton for a Wednesday night tussle before returning home to close out the regular season hosting Virginia and Virginia Tech.