Tar Heels Strike Early, Roll Past Fighting Irish in #ACCWLAX Semifinals

Messinger’s six goals, Waters’ 13 saves (pictured) key UNC

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (theACC.com) – Top-seeded North Carolina earned a spot in the 2015 Women’s Lacrosse Championship finals on Friday, defeating fifth-seeded Notre Dame, 18-4, in a record-setting semifinal that offered a sharp contrast to the regular-season meeting between the teams.

Unlike the April 4 game at South Bend that saw the Tar Heels squander an early six-goal lead before salvaging a 9-8 win, UNC stayed in firm control after jumping out to a quick lead at the outset of Friday’s matchup at Klockner Stadium.

Coach Jenny Levy’s squad built a 10-goal by halftime and did not let up in winning by the largest margin in the 19-year history of the ACC Women’s Lacrosse Championship. Junior Aly Messinger paced the Tar Heel offense with a career-high six goals, and sophomore Maggie Bill scored four goals to match her career high.

Meanwhile, sophomore Caylee Waters played brilliant in-goal for the Tar Heels, matching her career high with 13 saves.

North Carolina (15-2) advanced to Sunday’s 1 p.m. title game and will face the winner of Friday’s second semifinal between second-seeded Duke and sixth-seeded Syracuse. UNC will be seeking its second ACC championship and its first since 2002.

The Tar Heels blitzed the Fighting Irish (10-8) early with five goals in the first seven minutes and nine unanswered goals during one stretch en route to a 13-3 halftime lead. Messinger’s five goals in the first half tied her previous career high, and Bill had a hat trick by the break. Sam McGee added a pair of first-half goals for UNC and assisted on three others.

But Waters’ defensive effort was an equal part of the first-half equation, as she stifled eight Notre Dame shots on goal, including six in a span of just over 18 minutes as the Tar Heels opened up a 10-1 lead.

McGee, Marie McCool and Kelly Devilin each finished the day with two goals for nationally-second ranked UNC.

Rachel Sexton, who played a key role in Thursday’s quarterfinal win over fourth-seeded Virginia, led Notre Dame with two goals in Friday’s contest. With three road wins over fellow ranked teams in recent weeks, the nationally 11th-ranked Irish remain hopefully of a solid seeding in next month’s NCAA Tournament.

Sunday’s championship game will be carried live by the ACC’s Regional Sports Network (RSN) stations, as well as via ESPN3. Tom Werme will handle play-by-play, with Leah Secando working as the sideline reporter.

 

QUOTES

North Carolina Head Coach Jenny Levy

Opening Statement:
“We are extremely happy and satisfied with our performance today. It is tournament time and we have worked all season to put a finished product on the field for this time of year. Aly can attest to all the hard work we have done throughout the season. Last time we played Notre Dame we eeked out a win by one goal, but really felt like they outplayed us in South Bend. Today we wanted to show that we could play at a higher level more consistently with more fire, passion and heart. I thought every player today, and our sideline, completely committed to be the best team we could be.”

On the teams nine goal scoring run:
“The nine goal run was a result of winning some draws and playing good transition lacrosse. We took some risks that turned out well and we shared the ball very unselfishly. Some of those goals were very high level plays. Today our players made the coaches look great.”

On playing two games in two days:
“No one left the field satisfied yesterday. Credit goes to Virginia Tech, who had the opportunity to make a statement. They had a lot of seniors and competitors on their team. We did not play with discipline or poise yesterday. The team agreed, but we didn't dwell too long on the game, we said ‘tomorrow is going to be better, it is a new day.’ We recovered, got a good night sleep and got on with the game.”

On preparing for the Championship game:
“We don’t really care who we play on Sunday, we wish both teams the best of luck today. I’m sure it will be a great game. We need to focus on doing what we do well. We don’t need to make huge adjustments to play the other team. Our program plays the way we want to play and imposes our will on our opponents. That starts at the defensive end and extends to the attack.”

On Sophomore Goalie Caylee Waters:
“We have two great goalies, they come as a package. With stuck with Caylee Waters in the second half because she was hot and seeing the ball very well. She was outstanding. It was a 13 save game for her. She is on Team USA for a reason and she should be an All-American this season.”

On the challenges of the ACC tournament:
“The ACC is the top conference in the country, as you can see in the team rankings. There is no easy path in this tournament. Having played both Thursday and Friday, I know our players will welcome a day off tomorrow to rest, hydrate and recover. We will be ready and fresh to go on Sunday. You come to Carolina to compete for a Championship and this is our first opportunity a championship this season.

North Carolina Junior Attacker Aly Messinger

On today’s fast start:
“We did a really good job at coming out right away in the first half. It sparked a fire in us to continue to play the whole game with that same level of inspiration and determination to win.”

On playing in the Championship game:
“Our team is very excited to play. We haven’t won an ACC Championship in a while, and that is something that we all want to accomplish this year. We don’t just want to win, we want to take it to them and win with excitement.

 

Notre Dame Head Coach Christine Halfpenny

Opening Statement:
“First, congratulations to Carolina. They came out and proved why they are the top-ranked team in the ACC and the number two team in the country. That being said, I am very proud of my team. We took another step forward in the growth of our program this weekend, beating Virginia yesterday. We won our first ACC tournament game and got a taste of winning a big game. Today was unfortunate. We had a tough time making a save and also a tough time finishing our shots. Everywhere else was relatively even, when you look at the statistics. That is a credit to [Carolina’s] Caylee Waters who had an outstanding day between the pipes. Overall, we will learn from this experience moving forward.”

On playing the top seed:
“This tournament shows how important every single ACC game is. If we had played our selves away from the number one team in the bracket, maybe it is a different story for Notre Dame. Carolina is a very veteran team at the offensive end, and there was a discrepancy there between us today. It is all part of the process for us, this is our second year and in ACC and we have showed great improvement this year. I am very, very proud of my club.”

On the upcoming NCAA Tournament:
“We have a great non-conference and ACC schedule. We have a good strength of schedule and we are not shying away from top competition. Down the stretch, I am excited for the NCAA selection committee to look at our resume. We have battle all season, even in our losses. We have done our job to show that we deserve one of the 13 spots up for grabs. I would say that we have put ourselves in the tournament. We are ready for where every they send us, or if we have a home game in the tournament. IT is all out of my control, but we will focus on improving, taking some time off after this tournament, and then get back at it to prepare.”

On Sophomore Attacker Cortney Fortunato:
“Cortney went 0-for-9 shooting this weekend. She needs to watch tape and stay engaged. She is a sophomore and has a lot of ability. Even the most talented kids need experience and they kind of have to hit bottom at some point. This is somewhere where Cortney has never found herself, going 0-for-9 on two outings. She will get her confidence back in practice and get her hands free.”

On her team’s ceiling this season:
“There is no limit right now. We need to stay focused on our play and we cannot take breaks. We are little bit young and can lose focus in the middle of games. Our goal at Notre Dame is to win a National Title. We will stay focused on the present and take care of one thing at a time. I do not think that there is a limit for this team. We can compete with anyone in the country. Now is a time to recover, reflect, and get better.”