Lacrosse: Northwestern survives North Carolina at home

Dan Ryan

With No. 3 North Carolina coming to Evanston to play No. 1 Northwestern, the stage was set for a showdown between two of the nation’s top teams. Those expecting a tightly contested game were not disappointed.

The Wildcats defeated the Tar Heels 8-7 at Lakeside Field on Friday night in front of a crowd of 1534 people. The win leaves NU at 13-0, the last remaining undefeated team in Division I.

It took seven minutes for the first goal of the contest, but an offensive display shortly followed. Senior attacker Shannon Smith fired the first volley with an athletic behind-the-net goal to give the Cats the lead at the 23 minute mark. A minute and a half later, North Carolina responded with a score of its own.

That would be a theme throughout the first half.

NU went up 2-1 at the 18:44 mark, but North Carolina once again tied the game less than three minutes later. The Tar Heels surged forward to 4-2 on the backs of two quick attacks, leaving the home crowd stunned. The Cats would stay close behind through the rest of the first half, but couldn’t catch the Tar Heels and entered halftime down 6-4.

NU looked like a different team in the second half.

The Cats opened up the frame with two quick goals of their own, tying the game with 23 minutes and 50 seconds to go after an athletic set of moves put on by junior midfielder Taylor Thornton earned her a free position. She converted the opportunity to square the game at six.

Meanwhile, NU’s defense clamped down on North Carolina’s attack, which had seemed unstoppable in the first. The Cats allowed the Tar Heels to score only one goal on five second half shots, allowing the Cats to hold possession and go up 8-6. The late Tar Heels goal cut the lead to one, but after a wild scrum for the ball in the final seconds secured the NU win.

The Cats now enjoy a day off before taking on No. 19 Johns Hopkins on Sunday. The Cats lost to the Blue Jays last season, and NU will be looking to extract revenge on its home field.

Stay tuned for more in-depth coverage of this weekend’s action Sunday night.