A history of the Northwestern-North Carolina women’s lacrosse rivalry

Colin Becht

Northwestern faces one of its toughest tests of the season on Friday when the Wildcats host North Carolina.

No. 1 NU and No. 3 North Carolina are no strangers to meaningful games with major postseason implications. Nor are the Cats and Tar Heels unacquainted with each other, having faced off six times in past three years, including three NCAA Championships matchups

Let’s look back at NU’s history with its familiar Tobacco Road foe.

2009: In a regular season matchup, the top-ranked Cats jumped out to an early 4-1 lead on the No. 8 Tar Heels and held on to win 12-7. Then-senior midfielder Hannah Nielsen led the NU offense with 3 goals while then-senior midfielder Danielle Spencer added 2 scores and 2 assists. NU met up with North Carolina again nearly three months later, routing the Tar Heels, 21-7, in the NCAA Championship game, the Cats fifth-straight national title.

2010: NU seemed poised for a perfect season and another national title through its first 12 games of the season before North Carolina spoiled everything. The second-ranked Tar Heels upset the No. 1 Cats, 18-16, dealing NU its first – and still the most recent – home loss since May 6, 2004. The Cats got their revenge though as they eliminated the Tar Heels in the NCAA Championship semifinals, 15-10. With the score locked at 4-4 at halftime, NU ran away with the game in the second half, scoring 11 times to secure the win. The Cats lost their next game however, falling to Maryland in the championship game.

2011: In just the second game of NU’s season, the No. 2 Cats went down to the wire with the No. 3 Tar Heels. Tied at 6-6 after regulation, NU prevailed when then-sophomore defender Taylor Thornton scored with 15 seconds remaining in overtime. In another equally hard-fought game, the Cats again eked a close win in the NCAA semifinals, wining 11-10. Junior attacker Shannon Smith put in the game winner this time, finding the back of the net with 18 seconds left in the game for her fourth goal of the contest. NU went on to win its sixth national championship in seven years as the Cats defeated top-seeded Maryland, 8-7.