North Carolina sophomore midfielder Scottie Rose Growney and senior attacker Jamie Ortega orchestrated a divine passing clinic against the Maryland defense, displaying great chemistry with a tic-tac-toe connection that gave Growney a first-half hat trick and the Tar Heels an early 7-3 lead.
The sequence served as one of a trio of three-goal runs surrendered by No. 4 Maryland women's lacrosse team Saturday as it fell to No. 1 North Carolina, 19-6, for its second loss of the season.
“It can only go up from here,” senior defender Meghan Doherty said. “We’ve got to keep building off of it.”
With the loss, it marks the first time that the Terps have lost consecutive games with head coach Cathy Reese at the helm.
It was a game of runs for head coach Jenny Levy’s squad, as three separate three-goal runs provided the top-ranked Tar Heels with a comfortable security blanket throughout the contest.
Early in the game, North Carolina’s first three-goal run came and went in the blink of an eye.
Ortega started the run near the 26-minute mark in the first half, wrapping around the back of the cage for her 15th goal on the young season. Less than 30 seconds later, Growney found the back of the net off of a rebound from an Emily Sterling save.
The run was then capped off less than two minutes after Ortega’s goal with a free position goal from senior attacker Katie Hoeg, who finished with four goals on the afternoon.
The second run was all Growney, as she compiled two of the three goals to record a first half hat trick. The sophomore’s hat trick came off the aforementioned tic-tac-toe play with Ortega, who showed off her unselfishness against the Terps with a game-high three assists.
The Tar Heels came out of halftime strong, with the feared duo of Ortega and Hoeg connecting on a cut to the middle by the latter to put the Tar Heels up 8-4. Goal number two for Tayler Warehime and another goal from Growney capped off the third three-goal run for the Tar Heels as the game was essentially put out of reach.
Maryland seemed lost in this one, resulting in the largest margin of defeat for either teams in the rivalry’s history.
The offense, which was outshot 39-19, couldn’t get it rolling and scored a season-low six goals — the team’s lowest scoring game since April 25, 2008. The Terps hung around for much of the first half, but couldn’t replicate their hot start.
Senior Brindi Griffin got the offense going with a free position goal into the top right less than a minute in. Ten minutes later, Griffin responded to North Carolina’s first three-goal run with a smooth backhand-underhand shot assisted by junior Catie May.
Before Saturday’s game, senior captain Brindi Griffin’s season had been a tale of two halves. Only one first half goal contributed to her mild four goal total thus far, but Griffin got it rolling early on in Chapel Hill.
With North Carolina on another three-goal run late in the first half, it was May this time around to stifle the home team’s momentum, receiving a perfect pass from Kali Hartshorn across the crease and cutting the score to 7-4 heading into halftime.
Freshman Kate Sites chimed in on the first half goal output as well, showing off her speed as she flew down the field and got a flick past goalkeeper Taylor Moreno for her first career goal.
The second half was all North Carolina, but Hannah Warther continued her hot stretch, adding to her impressive showing against Florida with two goals at Dorrance Field.
But Maryland’s offense could never put together any offensive rhythm as the game ended on a seven-goal run by the Tar Heels, which spanned the final 14:42 of the contests and further distanced the top-ranked team from the Terps in this lopsided top-five showdown.
“Last game we came off a game we didn’t shoot well, but today we didn’t even generate shots,” Reese said. “We weren’t even really attacking the cage hard. It looks like we were just standing around waiting for someone else to do it.”
Three things to know
1. Head coach Cathy Reese makes a change in goal. Maryland went with a different approach in the cage for its pivotal matchup against North Carolina, as freshman Emily Sterling earned her first-career start, replacing sophomore Maddie McSally. The freshman from Bel Air, Maryland, had a tough first showing, allowing 17 goals and making seven saves.
“I thought she had some good stops,” Reese said. “When our slides were late, Carolina was scoring.”
2. Turnovers on transition highlighted a poor offensive performance. The Terps were outshot 16-8 in the first half thanks to an alarming nine turnovers in the first half. The majority of the lost balls were in transition, as the Terps struggled to get the ball into the offensive zone.
“They forced us to do things that were uncharacteristic of us,” Doherty said. “This week of practice we can work on controlling that pressure and staying calm and confident.”
Maryland’s turnovers continued into the second half as the team finished with 15, while North Carolina had a total of 10 turnovers.
3. The struggles continue in the 8-meter area. When Maryland did get into the offensive zone, the team had a tough time penetrating the 8-meter area. Reese didn’t hold back in criticizing her team’s issues in that area of the field last week against Florida, and the problem seemingly wasn’t fully resolved in this weekend’s game.
“We started to hesitate,” Reese said. “I kind of thought we got caught back on our heels rather than attacking with that mentality that we were getting after it.”