Defense wins championships. It may be cliché, but many times clichés are borne in reality.

And cliché or not, it was defense that Michigan’s players and coaches wanted to talk about following Friday’s 9-6 win over North Carolina in the WCLA Division I national semifinal. One day after watching the Tar Heels run up and down the field with 15 goals in a dominating quarterfinal win, Michigan slowed UNC’s transition game and held the Heels to their lowest goal output of the year.

Aware of UNC’s team speed, the Wolverines made a minor change in their transition defense, cutting off passing angles and focusing on pushing UNC to the outside. Judging by the final outcome, the plan worked pretty well.

“Playing defense is a mindset, and it’s what has gotten us here” said Michigan coach David McKinnon. “We trust in our defense. We also know that defense isn’t just in the back. It starts well before that, and we were able to shut down their transition in the midfield.”

Senior Ashley Bonnoitt scored three goals and added an assist to pace UM’s offense, with Taylor Rick adding two goals and an assist. Despite scoring just twice over the final 24 minutes of the game, the Wolverines knew that their defense could hold their lead. All-American goalie Maddie Collins finished with 12 saves. 

No. 1 seed Michigan, the only undefeated team in the nation, carries an 18-0 record into Saturday’s championship game. The Wolverines are back in the final game for the first time since winning the title in 2015.

“Being undefeated, we know we have a target on our back,” Bonnoitt said. “That just gives us extra motivation. We’re pretty pumped up.”

Senior Sydney Sapir led North Carolina with three goals and one assist. 

Friday’s second D-I semifinal could not have been any more different from game one. It featured a tightly-contested, high-scoring, free-flowing affair that finished with No. 3 BYU edging No. 7 Virginia, 14-13. 

The game featured eight ties and five lead changes, and was still in doubt in the waning seconds as Virginia, trailing by one, made a last rush on goal. A collapsing BYU defense was able to force a turnover as the final seconds ticked away, giving the Cougars their first-ever berth in the national championship game.

“This is an amazing experience and we are so excited,” said a jubilant Logan Coon after the game. She finished with three goals and one assist for BYU, including what proved to be the game-winning goal. Ironically, that score was the last one for BYU and came with 11:48 remaining in the game, giving the Cougars their biggest lead at 14-11.

Earlier in the game, Virginia had responded to a 9-6 deficit by scoring four straight goals and taking the lead. To no surprise, Virginia responded once again, this time with a little help from BYU. Two Cougar yellow cards, their fourth and fifth of the game, opened the door for goals by Nicole Blystone and Sophia Garibaldi to pull the Cavaliers to within one at 14-13 with 4:56 left. UVA had two more possessions but was unable to tally the equalizer.

“We certainly don’t want that many yellow cards and it was frustrating, but we tried to stay positive,” said BYU coach Nikki Dabrowski. “Fortunately, we do a lot of two-minute drills in practice, so we were prepared for the special situations.”

Shannon Viehweg and Heather Haight also added three goals each for BYU, which improved to 16-2 on the year.

Garibaldi led Virginia with four goals and Rachel Scherbenske finished with three. Virginia faces MAWLL rival North Carolina in Saturday’s third place game. UNC has won both earlier meetings between the teams this year.

Friday's Division I Consolation Bracket Scores
Delaware 11, Pittsburgh 10 (ot)
Georgia 12, San Diego State 6
St. Mary’s 14, Oregon 7
Penn State 13, Texas 8
Cal Poly 10, Colorado 8
BC 12, UCLA 9

Saturday’s Division I Consolation Bracket Games 
3rd Place: North Carolina vs. Virginia
5th Place: Delaware vs. Georgia
7th Place: Pitt vs. San Diego State
9th Place: Cal Poly vs. BC
11th Place: Colorado vs. UCLA
13th Place: St. Mary’s vs. Penn State
15th Place: Oregon vs. Texas