Late run earns UNC its third women’s lacrosse national title, completes perfect season

By R.L. Bynum

It was a perfect finish to a perfect season and a perfect 24th birthday for Sam Geiersbach.

No. 1-ranked and No. 1 seed Carolina used a late 4–1 run on its way to a 12–11 victory over Boston College in Baltimore at Johns Hopkins’ Homewood Field to earn the Tar Heels’ third national championship and first since 2016 before a sellout crowd.

UNC (22–0) avenged a national semifinal loss last season to Boston College, which won the NCAA title. The Eagles finished 19–4, with three of those losses to the Tar Heels.

Geiersbach, a Richmond transfer who is in the graduate journalism program, picked up where she left off in the semifinals with two goals in the first 5½ minutes and finished with a team-high three scores. She scored five goals and UNC’s last four in its 15–14 semifinal victory Friday over Northwestern.

She said that the season played out just like she pictured.

“Absolutely. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t,” she said. “It was kind of in my mind the whole time I want to go somewhere and I want to win whether I can make an impact on the field or not. So that was my intention; transferring to a school like UNC to win a national championship. So, I’m just glad we did it.”

Sam Geiersbach, right, had a lot to celebrate on her 24th birthday in Baltimore with three goals and a national title.

UNC coach Jenny Levy, who grew up not far away from Homewood Field, was happy that her veteran players made good on their last shot at a national title.

“Right before we played this game, I just wanted it for them so bad,” said Levy, who has earned titles in 2013 and 2016. “I keep going. I’ve been here a long time but they only have this one last shot. And they’ve worked so hard. And just because you work hard doesn’t mean you’re gonna get it. They’re going to spend the rest of their lives as national champions from the University of North Carolina and that, to me, is just has a special place in my heart because I care about them so much.”

Jamie Ortega finished her decorated college career with two goals to break her 2019 school points record with 114 points, despite being face-guarded by graduate BC defender Melanie Welch all game.

“I just cried tears of gratitude,” Ortega said. “It wasn’t of sadness this time, it was of gratitude and just looking around at the girls on the field, the girls on the bench. Just being so proud of each and every one of them whether they played or not. Just we wouldn’t have done it without all of us there and I’m still speechless. It’s an indescribable moment.”

Veteran UNC goaltender Taylor Moreno, in her sixth season, rebounded from a tough game in the semifinal victory over Northwestern with 11 saves.

“Obviously, Friday for me stung a little bit because I knew that I’m better than that,” Moreno said. “But I just had to come forward and acknowledge the fact because I think that’s the first part of growing as a player is acknowledging when you don’t play well. And it was awesome to have my teammates have my back the entire game on Friday and I knew going into this game that I was the one that was going to need to have their backs this time.”

After BC tied it on a pair of Charlotte North goals, UNC’s Andie Aldave scored at close range. Ally Mastroianni’s goal on a free-position shot and Olivia Dirks’ diving shot shoved UNC’s lead back to 5–2 by the end of the second quarter.

Cassidy Weeks scored for BC in the first two minutes of the second quarter but Jamie Ortega’s score on a free-position shot made it 6–3.

The teams then traded goals from BC’s Jenn Medjid and UNC’s Caitlyn Wurzberger (right in top photo) before Weeks cut the Tar Heels’ halftime edge to 7–5 on a goal with 19 seconds left.

Boston College tied it on a Medjid score, North’s free-position shot, and another North goal gave the Eagles their first lead at 8–7 with 2:13 left in the third quarter.

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Eagles goaltender Rachel Hall got into a groove after giving up five first-quarter scores and shut out UNC in the second half before Mastroianni beat her high to tie it with 48 seconds left in the third. Kayla Martello’s goal put BC back in front 1:41 into the final quarter.

After Ortega beat Hall one-on-one in transition after a stick-fake, Nicole Humphrey then scored off of an Aldave pass to retake the lead but Medjid tied it at 10 with 9:50 remaining.

It was a huge score for Ortega, who BC’s defense didn’t give much space.

“I had some deja vu from last time we played BC,” Ortega said. “But I just want to do whatever I can to be a good teammate out there. Whether it’s making sure everyone’s heads are up and we have great body language and not letting the score affect us and just playing how we play, that’s fine by me. It doesn’t really matter how many points I have. It depends on what the end result is. And if that means setting picks or just being that spark, then I’m fine with that.”

Geiersbach worked her way right in front of the cage and scored, then Scottie Rose Growney’s goal with 2:23 left gave the Heels a 12–10 lead.

Weeks cut it to one with 15 seconds left.

No. 1 UNC 12, No. 3 BC 11

Photos by Jeffrey Camarati/UNC Athletics

1 Comment

  1. Jim Hebb says:

    Congrats to a special team from an OLD (class of ‘64) Tar Heel lacrosse player!

    Liked by 1 person

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