Feb. 22, 2013
Score: No. 5 North Carolina 11, No. 1 Northwestern 8
Site: Chapel Hill, N.C. (Fetzer Field)
Records: Northwestern (2-1), North Carolina (3-1)
Next NU Event: Sunday, Feb. 24 at Vanderbilt 1 p.m. CT Nashville, Tenn.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- An early-season matchup of national title hopefuls saw fifth-ranked North Carolina jump out to a 7-1 first-half lead and withstand No. 1 Northwestern's comeback efforts, as the Tar Heels notched an 11-8 victory at Fetzer Field in rainy Chapel Hill Friday night.
On the same day she was named to the Tewaaraton Award watch list, junior Alyssa Leonard led NU's scoring with two goals while also continuing her torrid start to the season in the draw circle, winning 12 draw controls to help Northwestern win 16 of 21 on the evening.
Northwestern, which had won four straight meetings with North Carolina and 10 in a row against ACC opponents dating to 2010, now leads the all-time series with UNC, 10-3. Including Friday's affair, the last four games in the series have been decided by a total of five goals.
"North Carolina played a great game today and really came out strong," said head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller. "I thought we fought back but it was a little too late. We made some bad decisions and weren't coming up with 50-50 balls in the first half, and those are the kinds of things that eat away at you when you play good teams."
After North Carolina opened the game's scoring on its first possession, Northwestern received a boost from sophomore defender Haydyn Anigian
, who was making her first career start and first appearance of the season after missing the first two games to injury. Anigian gained possession in the midfield and raced across the restraining line, scoring on her first career shot attempt with less than two minutes gone by in the game.
Northwestern turnovers at the offensive end allowed the Tar Heels to put together a 3-0 run over the ensuing six minutes, taking a 4-1 lead when UNC freshman Aly Messenger managed to score from her knees in front of the cage. Following a Northwestern yellow card, the Heels notched their fifth goal in a man-up scenario with 20:48 to go in the first half.
North Carolina then made it five straight goals with a tally at the 19:31 mark, forcing a Northwestern timeout. Two more NU miscues led to UNC's seventh goal of the evening, this one courtesy of Kara Cannizzaro, before Erin Fitzgerald snapped Northwestern's scoreless drought off a restart outside the 8-meter arc at the midway point of the first half.
Leonard won the ensuing draw and senior Ali Cassera capitalized on a spinning dodge to the cage, scoring her fifth goal of the year to pull NU within four. Northwestern then cut it to 7-4 when it made the most of a man-up opportunity, with Kelly Rich wrapping the crease and beating UNC netminder Lauren Maksym with 8:52 left before halftime
Goalkeeper Bridget Bianco found a rhythm late in the half, recording three rapid-fire saves in succession and then notching a fourth point-blank stop to keep the Heels from adding to their lead. UNC brought a 7-4 lead into halftime, overcoming a 9-3 NU edge in draw controls thanks in part to nine Wildcats turnovers.
North Carolina restored a five-goal lead by scoring the first two goals out of the locker room, but the Wildcats remained calm and quickly put together a 3-0 run. Taylor Thornton tallied an unassisted goal, then the Wildcats turned defense into offense when a Haydyn Anigian caused turnover led to Jess Carroll finding Leonard open on the UNC crease for the score, just 29 seconds after Thornton's tally.
Senior Amanda Macaluso buried a left-handed shot only minutes later to pull NU within two, 9-7, but Abbey Friend answered for the Heels with a goal at the 15:09 mark. Leonard responded quickly by scoring in transition once again to get the `Cats within two, 10-8, before the Heels began taking precious time off the clock.
Northwestern (2-1) had several good looks on cage in the final five minutes, but UNC freshman Megan Ward -- who entered the game at halftime in place of the senior Maksym -- kept the Wildcats at bay with six saves in 30 minutes of action.
Both teams fired 21 shots in the game, while Northwestern eventually finished with only one more turnover than UNC (14-13).
Northwestern's weekend road trip continues with a visit to Nashville, Tenn., where the Wildcats will open American Lacrosse Conference play against host Vanderbilt. Opening draw at the Vanderbilt Lacrosse Complex is set for 1 p.m. CT.
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