Long, Harden hat tricks rally No. 6 UNC to 14th straight women’s lacrosse win over Duke

By R.L. Bynum

DURHAM — For a program with one loss in the previous three seasons, North Carolina has faced unfamiliar challenges after losing plenty of talent from last season’s unbeaten national champions.

No. 6 UNC added another new challenge Friday when they trailed Duke for the first time since 2018. The Tar Heels haven’t overcome all those challenges this season but withstood a spunky Blue Devils team to win 13–12 in the regular-season finale for their 14th consecutive win over their rivals.

“We’re competing against a very veteran Duke team that was desperate,” UNC coach Jenny Levy said. “We weren’t great. We were really ugly. We have a lot to get better at. But we dug out a really tough win. So you know, it’s just one of those games. Sometimes winning the ugly is what you have to do.”

Carolina (12–3, 7–2 ACC) fell behind in the first period for the third consecutive game. Led by hat tricks from Alyssa Long and Kaleigh Harden, the Tar Heels showed a lot of resiliency after never leading in the first half against the Blue Devils (7–9, 1–7).

UNC rallied from a 5–2 deficit but lost to No. 1 Syracuse 14–12 in Chapel Hill. But the  Heels wouldn’t be denied against the underdog Blue Devils.

Carolina is the No. 3 seed in the ACC tournament at American Legion Memorial Stadium in Charlotte, and will meet No. 6-seed Clemson (12–5, 4–5) at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the quarterfinals.

“I think we missed easy stuff. I think we turned the ball over way more than we had,” Levy said. “But when you play a team that’s desperate for great win, why not play great against us?”

Levy said that plenty of her players were experiencing a Carolina-Duke game for the first time.

“We just have a lot of people experiencing what the season feels like for the very first time as major contributors,” Levy said.

After losing 90% of her scoring from last season’s title team, Levy is happy with 12 regular-season victories.

“We’ve had a lot of big shoes to fill; we’ve turned over our draw-taker,” Levy said. “Our main draw-taker got hurt. We’ve got some injuries going on, unfortunately. So we’re playing with a lot of babies out there. I think a lot of teams in the country would take our 12 and three.”

As to what the postseason potential for this team after last season’s Tar Heels won it all, Levy said that’s up to her team.

“I think they need to play better,” Levy said. “Collectively, I think they play hard. They give me great effort, but they need to play better collectively so the games aren’t as difficult. You don’t need individuals to do as much if everyone’s doing their job together. And so that’s one of their lessons that they have to learn. We’re still trying to learn that.”

After the teams traded early goals, with scores from Duke’s Eva Greco and UNC’s Olivia Dirks, the Blue Devils scored five consecutive goals in the last 7:04 of the first quarter. Duke took a 5–1 lead on two scores from Katie Keller and goals from Maddie Jenner and Greco, with as many goals in the opening period as UNC had shots.

Carolina charged back with goals from Reilly Casey and Long in the first four minutes of the second quarter. Jenner scored another goal for Duke before Harden scored with 1:20 left.

On an end-to-end play, Long scored in the final second of the first half, despite being tripped, to cut Duke’s lead to 6–5.

Those two late first-half goals started a 5–0 UNC run to take a 7–6 lead on two third-quarter goals from Melissa Sconone. Duke retook the lead on a goal from Maddie Johnson and Jenner’s third goal of the game.

Carolina took a 10–9 lead into the final quarter after goals from Caitlyn Wurzburger, Long and Lauren Figura and a Duke score from Caroline DeBellis.

Duke took the lead on another DeBellis goal and a score from Maddie McCorkle in the first 5½ minutes of the fourth quarter. But two Harden goals and Marissa White’s score gave UNC its first two-goal lead of the game at 13–11 with 5:33 left.

Less than a minute later, Lexi Schmalz trimmed Duke’s deficit to one. Duke had possession in the final minute but couldn’t get off a shot in an attempt to tie it.

NOTES — The Tewaaraton Foundation named UNC defender Emily Nalls to the 25-player nominee list for the Tewaaraton Award on Thursday. The award honors the top college lacrosse player in the country. … If the Tar Heels beat Clemson, they would face No. 2-seed Syracuse, No. 7-seed Virginia Tech or No. 10-seed Pittsburgh in the semifinals at 3:30 Friday (ACC Network).  The Panthers and Hokies play a first-round game in Blacksburg, Va., at noon Sunday. (ACC Network). The championship game is at noon Sunday (ACC Network). Boston College earned the regular-season title by rallying from a six-goal second-half deficit Thursday to beat No. 1-ranked Syracuse 17–16. … The previous time that Carolina trailed Duke was in 2018 when the Tar Heels rallied from a 3–1 deficit to win 20–10. … Carolina leads the all-time series 29–24, including 10–6 in Durham. … UNC last lost to Duke on April 17, 2014, and last lost to the Blue Devils in Durham on April 15, 2011.

No. 6 UNC 13, Duke 12

ACC Tournament

All games on ACC Network
Sunday’s first round

No. 7 Virginia Tech 18, No. 10 Pittsburgh 6
No. 9 Duke 12, No. 8 Louisville 11, 2 p.m.
Remaining games at American Legion Memorial Stadium in Charlotte
Wednesday’s quarterfinals

No. 1 Boston College (13–3) vs. Duke (8–9), 11 a.m.
No. 4 Virginia (11–5) vs. No. 5 Notre Dame (12–4), 1:30
No. 2 Syracuse (15–1) vs. Virginia Tech (10–8), 4 p.m.
No. 3 North Carolina (12–3) vs. No. 6 Clemson (12–5), 6:30
Friday’s semifinals
Boston College–Duke winner vs. Virginia-Notre Dame winner, 1 p.m.
Syracuse–Virginia Tech winner vs. North Carolina-Clemson winner, 3:30
Sunday’s championship
Semifinal winners, noon

(current rank)
11Sat.14–9 WNo. 7 James MadisonHome1–0
15Wed.18–6 WLibertyHome2–0
18Sat.12–5 WNo. 6 FloridaHome3–0
24Friday10–6 WVirginia TechBlacksburg, Va.4–0,
1–0 ACC
3Friday16–5 WNo. 2 Boston CollegeHome5–0,
2–0 ACC
11Sat.17–12 WNo. 12 VirginiaHome6–0,
3–0 ACC
16Thurs.20–7 WLouisvilleLouisville7–0,
4–0 ACC
19Sunday13–9 LNo. 1 NorthwesternEvanston, Ill.7–1
23Thurs.22–4 WHigh PointHome8–1
26Sunday17–8 WClemsonHome9–1,
5–0 ACC
1Sat.16–12 LNo. 7 Notre DameSouth Bend, Ind.9–2,
5–1 ACC
7Friday16–3 WPittsburghHome10–2,
6–1 ACC
11Tuesday12–8 WEast CarolinaGreenville11–2
15Sat.14–12 LNo. 3 SyracuseHome11–3,
6–2 ACC
20Thurs.13–12 WDukeDurham12–3,
7–2 ACC
ACC Tournament
26Wed.16–6 WQuarterfinals
vs. Clemson
28Friday15–9 WSemifinals
vs. No. 3 Syracuse
30Sunday11–9 LChampionship:
vs. No. 2 Boston College
MayNCAA tournament
12Friday16–5 WFirst round:
Sacred Heart
14Sunday16–12 WSecond round:
No. 17 Richmond
18Thurs.5–4 LQuarterfinals:
No. 5 Denver

Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics Communications


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