BALTIMORE, Md. – UNC’s Sam Geiersbach scored the game-winning goal with 1:03 remaining in Friday’s rainy NCAA women’s lacrosse semifinal game to beat Northwestern 15-14, earning Carolina a spot in Sunday’s championship. The top-ranked Tar Heels improved to 21-0 on the season and will play for their third NCAA title.
It’s UNC’s first appearance in the championship game since 2016, which was also the last time the Tar Heels won the title.
The Tar Heels will face No. 3 seed Boston College in the title game on Sunday for a third time this season. The Eagles beat No. 2 seed Maryland, 17-16, in Friday’s second semifinal.
Carolina needed an epic comeback to advance. Northwestern scored the first six goals of the game and outshot the Tar Heels 10-4 in the first quarter. With 1:11 remaining in the first quarter, a weather delay of an hour and 36 minutes for lightning in the area began. NU led, 6-0, after the first period.
UNC didn’t get on the board until a Jamie Ortega goal early in the second quarter made it Northwestern 6-1 with 13:25 to go until halftime. Ally Mastroianni added another for UNC before the Wildcats scored two more to lead 8-2 at halftime. It was the lowest-scoring half of the season for Carolina.
After failing to pick up any ground in the third quarter, when Northwestern held a 5-4 scoring advantage, UNC trailed 13-6 heading into the fourth quarter. Mastroianni scored to make it 13-7, then the Wildcats answered to again go up by seven, 14-7 with 10:15 to play in the game.
The last 10 minutes belonged to Carolina, which closed the game on an 8-0 run. Caitlyn Wurzburger scored unassisted with 9:15 remaining to start the onslaught. Ortega added another a minute later to cut the margin to five. Geiersbach then scored her first of the game, with 5:27 to play.
A goal by Scottie Rose Growney, assisted by Ortega, at the five-minute mark cut Northwestern’s advantage to three, 14-11 Northwestern. Geiersbach scored the final four goals, all unassisted, down the stretch. Her gamewinner gave UNC its first lead of the afternoon.
Ortega finished with three goals and three assists for the Tar Heels and Mastroianni also had three goals. The Tar Heels, who beat Northwestern 20-9 in Chapel Hill in March, held a 40-29 advantage in shots and led 16-11 in ground balls. They forced the Wildcats into 17 turnovers, including eight in the fourth quarter, when UNC committed just two.
“First of all, congratulations to Northwestern on a great season and a great game today,” UNC head coach Jenny Levy said afterward. “They came out and punched us in the mouth, clearly, and that’s on me. I didn’t have the team ready to roll, and luckily for me I’ve got fabulous student-athletes who found a way to win today.
“Overall, just an unbelievable game. We scored 10 of the last 11 goals of the game with so many contributions from so many players, and a lot of effort and refusing to go away. I’m incredibly proud and grateful that we get two more days with this crew. “
Lauren Gilbert led Northwestern with five goals.
UNC has won 21 consecutive games, the second-longest winning streak in school history. Carolina’s 21 wins break the program record for most wins in a season (20 wins in 2016 and 2021). Carolina has won 48 of its last 49 games and 56 of its last 58 overall.
The Tar Heels improved to 30-10 in the NCAA Tournament in the last 13 years (since 2009), advancing to 10 final fours and five national finals in that span.
Carolina trailed by eight goals on two occasions in the game, the biggest deficit of the season for the Tar Heels. The eight-goal comeback is the largest by any team on the NCAA championship weekend since Virginia overcame a nine-goal deficit in the 2007 semifinals to beat Duke.
Tar Heel goalie Taylor Moreno struggled early, allowing 13 goals on the day in 52:13 of action. Freshman backup Alecia Nicholas entered the game in the second half in relief of Moreno, playing 7:47 and allowing just one goal before Moreno returned to the game. Moreno made one of the biggest saves of her decorated career when she stopped a close-range shot by Gilbert with 38 seconds left to preserve UNC’s slim lead. The Tar Heels were able to run out the clock after Moreno’s game-saving save.
• With the victory, the Tar Heels advance to their fifth NCAA championship game appearance (2009, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2022). Carolina is 5-9 in the NCAA semifinals.
• Carolina won for the 48th time in its last 49 games and the 56th in its last 58.
• UNC is 30-10 in the last 13 NCAA Tournaments (beginning in 2009).
• The win was UNC’s 21st of the season, a new UNC single-season record.
• The current UNC senior class (2018-22) improved to 82-9 in five seasons.
• Carolina improved to 15-0 this season vs. ranked teams.
• Taylor Moreno improved her career record in goal to 69-6. She has started 75 consecutive games in the cage dating to 2018.
• Jamie Ortega has tallied at least one point in 84 consecutive games and 89 of 90 in her career.
• Ortega has 464 career points, most in ACC history and second in NCAA history.
• Ortega started her 90th career game, the most starts in school history and breaking Katie Hoeg’s UNC record for most games played in school history.
• With the win, head coach Jenny Levy picked up her 39th career NCAA Tournament win, passing the recently retired Chris Sailer of Princeton for third-most in the history of the sport.
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— UNC Women's Lacrosse (@uncwlax) May 27, 2022