Last season, an undefeated North Carolina women’s lacrosse team rolled into the Final Four hoping to achieve perfection, only to be thwarted by Boston College in the semifinal game. That loss drove the Tar Heels right back to this year, once again with a perfect season, once again the overall one seed, and this time facing Northwestern. Surely they could get over the hump this time.
Except Northwestern had other ideas. Still raw after losing 20-9 in Chapel Hill a couple months ago, the Wildcats seemed to have studied the game film from Stony Brook’s close loss to the Tar Heels last week and quickly punched Carolina in the mouth from the outset. The ball never seemed to leave the Northwestern side, and the few possessions Carolina had ended up being turnovers going the other way. Before anyone knew what hit them, Northwestern was up 6-0, and the first quarter wasn’t even done yet.
Not long after the sixth goal, a delay ensued as action was stoped for over 90 minutes while storms passed through the Baltimore area. Once play resumed, it seemed like the break helped the Tar Heels as they stopped the bleeding on defense and managed to get on the board twice in the second quarter. Northwestern, though, held their ground and regained their six goal advantage going into halftime.
It got worse in the third.
After Ally Mastroianni managed to open the quarter with a goal to get the Tar Heels to within five, the Wildcats reopened the flood gates, scoring the next three and extending their lead to eight. After trading goals, it was still an eight goal deficit until Caitlyn Wurzburger scored for the Tar Heels with just six seconds left.
The fourth started much like the rest of the match, with both teams trading goals, and the Tar Heels staring at a seven-goal deficit with 10:15 left. Most everyone felt that at this point the teams would just be playing out the string.
The Tar Heels, though, didn’t feel that way.
Just a couple weeks ago, the Tar Heels spotted Notre Dame a five goal lead in the ACC Tournament before storming back and taking a 12-1 run to take the lead. This group knew they could score in a hurry, so...they did.
Two minutes after Northwestern was up seven, the Tar Heels had cut the lead to five thanks to goals by Wurzburger and Jamie Ortega. Northwestern then turned the ball over, but managed a save and seemed to realized what was going on. They called timeout to try and stop the momentum. It worked for about 60 seconds.
With 5:27 left, Sam Geiersbach (get used to this) scored to bring the Tar Heels to within 14-10...and then with 5:00 left Scottie Rose Growney scored to get it to 14-11....and then with 4:33 left Geiersbach scored again to bring it to 14-12. Yes, that’s three goals in 54 seconds of game action to cut a five goal lead to two with plenty of time left.
GET TO A TV. IT’S A TWO-GOAL GAME.— USA Lacrosse Magazine (@USALacrosseMag) May 27, 2022
Sam Geiersbach with a BEAUTIFUL roll for the goal.@uncwlax is within 14-12 with 4:30 left. pic.twitter.com/09mtx99DN9
With 3:15 left the transfer from Richmond scored again to get the Tar Heels within one, and then just 50 second later, she scored the equalizer to make it a tie game with 2:25 left. Northwestern would win the subsequent draw, and call timeout to try and settle in and retake the lead. Instead, they turned it over 13 seconds later.
The Tar Heels, now with the luxury of time, took possession and set themselves up for this beauty, again by Geierbach
SAM GEIERSBACH.— USA Lacrosse Magazine (@USALacrosseMag) May 27, 2022
Northwestern couldn’t mount any sort of last ditch effort, even fouling the Tar Heels when they turned it over one last time. The comeback was complete
A COMEBACK FOR THE AGES @uncwlax scores the final 8️⃣ goals to down @NULax 15-14 and advance to the NCAA final.— USA Lacrosse Magazine (@USALacrosseMag) May 27, 2022
The comeback is going to go down in legend, not just for the size but for when it was accomplished and how quickly they turned it around. You may know of eight points in seventeen seconds, but fans of this team will remember eight goals 9:15.
Carolina can’t celebrate too long, they have a national title game to be ready for and standing in their way is the team that spoiled their perfect season last year: Boston College. BC had a bit of a comeback themselves, down three goals with 7:13 left, they scored the next four to earn their trip to the title game. The Tar Heels are 2-0 against the Eagles so far this year, escaping with a narrow win in Chestnut Hill and then won going away for the ACC Title a couple weeks ago.
You can catch the action on ESPN at Noon Sunday. Here’s hoping this game goes a little bit more like the ACC title game and not Friday.