Rapid Recap: No. 3 Northwestern 13, No. 1 North Carolina 9


Daily file photo by Joanne Haner

Sophomore midfielder Emerson Bohlig looks to find a teammate in front of goal. Bohlig scored the first goal of the game against North Carolina on Sunday.

Jake Epstein, Assistant Sports Editor

When the schedule was announced in December, No. 3 Northwestern certainly circled one date on its calendar — March 19 against No. 1 North Carolina.

After a month of early season action, that fateful day had finally arrived.

Coach Kelly Amonte Hiller’s crew welcomed the defending national champions into Ryan Fieldhouse Sunday for a grudge match of last season’s NCAA Tournament Semifinal. The Wildcats ( 8-1,1-0 Big Ten) handed the Tar Heels (7-1, 4-0 ACC) their first regular season loss in 1,149 days.

Sophomore midfielder Samantha Smith controlled the opening draw, allowing NU to unleash three shots on its first possession. Despite constant offensive pressure from the Cats, North Carolina goalkeeper Alecia Nichols maintained the deadlock with four saves midway through the opening frame.

Following 14 minutes of scoreless play, sophomore midfielder Emerson Bohlig beat Nichols on an unassisted score to break the stalemate. Graduate student Hailey Rhatigan then drew a free position shot and fired her signature lefty riser into the top right corner, settling a 2-0 NU lead.

Graduate student midfielder Elle Hansen opened the second period with a powerful conversion from the eight meter, but Tar Heel attacker Caroline Godine answered 40 seconds later, tightening the margin to 3-1.

Just when the Cats needed a spark, graduate student attacker Izzy Scane fended off tight marking to tally her first goal of the afternoon. Just 33 seconds later, Scane struck again from a nearly impossible angle, handing NU a 5-1 advantage.

Senior attacker Erin Coykendall got in on the fun as well, sidearming a lethal score with 8:55 remaining in the second quarter. Godine responded two minutes later.

Both squads then traded goals, as Scane completed her hat trick before North Carolina midfielder Alyssa Long scored at the other end.

Nearing the four minute mark, Scane heaved a prayer toward her attacking ally Coykendall. From there, the senior rose up to grab the lofted pass and sank a breathtaking behind the back finish. Tar Heel attacker Marrisa White closed the first half scoring tally from point blank range, and the Cats held an 8-4 halftime edge.

Rhatigan ruled the run of play after the intermission, notching consecutive scores to attain a hat trick and hand NU a six-goal lead.

However, North Carolina then seized momentum. The Tar Heels held the Cats scoreless for the final 9:43 of the third period, tallying consecutive scores to settle a 10-6 NU lead with 15 minutes to play.

The Tar Heels drew first blood in the final frame, as attackers Reilly Casey and Kiley Mottice each found the net to slash the deficit to two goals nearly two minutes in.

While it appeared that history was doomed to repeat itself, Scane and senior attacker Dylan Amonte nullified the North Carolina advance with a pair of powerful scores.

Freshman midfielder Madison Taylor and Godine traded the matchup’s final two tallies, and the Cats held on to snap the Tar Heels’ 47-game regular season win streak in a 13-9 win.

Here’s three takeaways from NU’s home victory over North Carolina.


1. Defenses reign supreme early

Two of the nation’s elite offenses lined up on opposite ends of the turf —most anticipated an offensive barnburner.

Yet, it was the defenses that stole the show, as neither side found any room to run and gun early. Despite Tar Heel defender Brooklyn Walker-Welch missing Sunday’s contest because of injury, North Carolina was able to keep up with the Cats for most of the match.

While the Cats found plenty of early looks, Nichols put on a clinic between the pipes. North Carolina prevented Scane from settling into the contest, face guarding and double teaming the Tewaraaton frontrunner at every turn.

Junior midfielder Kendall Halpern and sophomore midfielder and defender Samantha White spearheaded a stingy NU defense. They held the highflying North Carolina offense in check throughout the first frame, closing off shooting windows and forcing a flurry of turnovers.

Bohling and Rhatigan broke open the contest in the period’s final minute, but few would’ve expected a two-tally first frame.

2. Draw controls crucial to the Cats’ first half display

The Tar Heels pride themselves on dominating draw controls. Games can be won and lost in the draw circle, and the first 30 minutes of action was largely settled at midfield.

Amonte Hiller’s draw team proved especially effective in the first quarter, winning the draw on all three occasions.

The 9-2 second period draw advantage fueled NU’s offensive exploits. Led by Smith’s dominant performance inside the draw circle, the Cats maintained possession for the bulk of the period and built an 8-4 halftime lead.

3. Scane and Rhatigan rally a gutsy victory

NU built its seven-goal semifinal lead last year on the back of attacker Lauren Gilbert and midfielder Jill Girardi, who combined for eight scores.

With the high scoring duo graduated out of the program, the Cats needed other scorers to step up in their stead Sunday.

Enter Scane and Rhatigan.

Scane missed the previous matchup with a torn ACL, and Rhatigan donned the Mercer black and orange at that time.

The pair provided a lethal combination of speed and power that the Tar Heels could only hope to keep quiet.

Rhatigan’s last minute goal in the first quarter sparked an NU scoring frenzy. Her and Scane would each tally three-plus goals and build an insurmountable margin.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @jakeepste1n

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