Lacrosse sidebar: Last year’s loss fueled this year’s win

Jimmy Mitchell

When top-ranked Northwestern took the field against No. 11 North Carolina Sunday, it looked like just another regular-season matchup.

The history between the two teams suggested otherwise.

The Tar Heels (11-5) were the last team to defeat the Wildcats (15-0), and Sunday’s contest was NU’s first opportunity to avenge the 9-8 overtime loss on Feb. 17, 2007.

With a 16-3 blowout over North Carolina on Sunday, the Cats earned their 36th consecutive victory since their defeat in the 2007 season opener in Chapel Hill, N.C.

“We try to get pumped up for every game,” said junior midfielder Casey Donohoe. “But we definitely had more of a fire under us today than in a lot of other games, which turned out well.”

NU came out of the gates strong, scoring five goals in the first 10 minutes of regulation. With an 8-0 lead going into halftime, the Cats appeared to have a firm grip on the game, as their effective ball control strategy kept possession away from the Tar Heels.

But instead of running down the clock in the second period, coach Kelly Amonte Hiller’s Cats scored six times in the game’s final nine minutes.

“We go hard from the first whistle to the last whistle,” said senior defender Christy Finch. “I think that’s why we had those extra goals at the end. We just played a full 60 minutes.”

Hiller acknowledged that last year’s loss to North Carolina “absolutely” factored into NU’s decision to not ease up late in the game.

“Any time a team beats you the previous year, they’re going to be ready for you, and you’ve got to expect that motivation,” she said. “We were really fired up for the game today.”

Adding to the rivalry between the two teams was the presence of freshman attacker Corey Donohoe, who leads the Tar Heels in scoring and is also the younger sister of NU’s Casey Donohoe.

The younger Donohoe chose to attend North Carolina over NU primarily because of the warmer weather, Casey Donohoe said.

Playing against her Tar Heel sister added extra motivation for Donohoe – and her teammates – heading into the game.

“The girls just really wanted to play for Casey,” Hiller said. “They didn’t want her little sister to show her up.”

Casey Donohoe admitted that a rivalry between her and her sibling does exist but said that it was quite light-hearted in nature.

“Nothing too serious,” she said. “I think she knew we were going to win.”

After the game, a sea of purple and blue could be seen in the center of Lakeside Field. It was the entire Donohoe family, all wearing tie-dyed shirts in an attempt to maintain neutrality between the two sisters.

“It’s just fun,” Casey Donohoe said. “We both play attack, so we were never marked up on each other, but it’s always fun to play against a friend or a sister. I hadn’t played against her in years.”