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Salt Lake City, Utah – The Tar Heels had them right where they wanted them.
No. 14 seed North Carolina saw its two-goal halftime edge over No. 3 UCLA dissipate quickly in Wednesday’s opening round of the US Lacrosse WCLA (Women’s Collegiate Lacrosse Associates) Championship Tournament. The Bruins used a 6-2 second half run to storm ahead, capped by freshman Sophie Kamanski’s goal with 12:57 remaining to extend the UCLA lead to 13-11.
But the determined Heels would not fade away. Goals by All-American Sydney Sapir and Julia Silvestri just over one minute apart knotted the score at 13 and set the stage for the closing drama. That came with 1:07 left as senior Paige Harrell scored on an assist from Juliana Wulforst to give UNC the lead. The Tar Heels won the ensuing draw and ran out the clock as the Bruins were unable to force a turnover.
“We’re used to one and two goal games,” Wulforst said. “We do a lot of conditioning to prepare for those situations. We pride ourselves on not wearing out down the stretch.”
Bianca Ingato led UNC (9-3) with four goals, while Sapir added three goals and three assists. Junior goalie Sarah Chyriwski recorded 12 saves, including seven in the second half. All-American Katie Koller paced the Bruins (12-3) with four goals.
The Tar Heels advance to Thursday’s quarterfinal round and will face No. 11 seed Michigan, which also registered an opening round upset with an 8-7 win over No. 6 seed Boston College. Junior Taylor Rick proved to be the hero for the Wolverines (10-4) by scoring the game-winning goal on a free position shot with 1:51 left. The tightly contested game featured six tie scores and neither team led by more than two goals at any point in the game.
No. 1 seed Pittsburgh was dominant in its opening round game, posting a lopsided 20-4 win over No. 16 Western Washington, which was making its first appearance in the national tournament. Pitt (15-1) jumped out to leads of 7-0 and 13-2 and cruised to the finish. A balanced Panther’s offense featured 12 different scorers.
“Our offense was firing on all cylinders today,” said Pitt coach Kevin Tidgewell. “In truth, our offense has clicked just about all season long. We also have a big roster, so we like to substitute early and often. There’s not really a lot of drop off when we substitute.”
The Panthers will face No. 8 seed Brigham Young in the quarterfinal. The Cougars advanced with a 17-12 victory over Virginia in a game that featured distinct changes in momentum. BYU dominated the opening half and built an 8-2 lead at the break. That lead grew to 10-2 early in the second half before the Cavaliers rallied, using three goals by Megan Greatorex to spark a 9-3 run that pulled UVA to within 13-11.
And that’s when momentum shifted again as BYU (10-1) answered Virginia’s rally with its own four-goal run to seal the victory. Beth Larsen led the Cougars with four goals, with All-American Whitney Sieverts and Briana Arnold adding three apiece.
“I think our pregame jitters actually helped us jump out to a fast start. We were ready to get going,” said BYU coach Nikki Dabrowski. “But I think our confidence at halftime might have turned into over confidence. We have a pretty emotional team.”
Regardless, the Cougars are excited to be playing in their home state.
“We have been pointing to this event since last fall when we heard that the nationals were coming to Salt Lake City,” Dabrowski said. “We were determined to be here.”
Defending champion Georgia, seeded fourth, posted a deliberate 11-6 win over No. 13 San Diego State in its opening game. The Bulldogs dominated the time of possession but never created a lot of separation from the Aztecs, making their second overall tournament appearance. Georgia’s coach Adam Weinstein said it was all part of the game plan.
“We knew they were a good shooting team so we wanted to take chunks of time off the clock,” he said. “It was our strategy to slow the pace and control the tempo. We think that plays to our strength.”
Four goals from Julia Norek and three by Katherine Vocelka led the Georgia offense.
The Bulldogs face No. 5 seed and four-time WCLA champion Colorado State in Thursday’s quarterfinal. Leading 9-7 at halftime against No. 12 seed Cal Poly, the Rams (13-4) outscored the Mustangs 10-4 in the second half to pull away. Sophomore Annika Mele scored three of her game-high five goals in the second half to fuel CSU’s run. Junior Jessica Berg added three goals and a game-high five assists.
No. 2 seed Santa Clara also registered a strong opening victory, defeating No. 15 Texas A&M, 14-5. Senior All-American Sam Simonich paced the Broncos (12-2) with seven goals and an assist, while All-American goalie Maggie Von Massenhausen recorded eight saves.
Santa Clara faces No. 7 seed Delaware (10-2) on Thursday as the Blue Hens earned their second consecutive quarterfinal appearance with a stifling 12-5 win over No. 10 Virginia Tech. Delaware’s defense pitched a first half shutout, building an 8-0 halftime lead. Junior goalie Alyssa Sorrentino enjoyed a stellar afternoon, recording 15 saves. Senior Olivia Gannon led the offense with three goals.
“Alyssa was amazing and our defense was super today,” said Gannon, one of the leaders of UD’s student-run, no-coach team. “We were ready to go and it showed with a great team effort. We’re excited to keep it going.”
In addition to the Division I quarterfinal games and consolation bracket games, the Division II championship tournament also gets underway on Thursday with all 12 teams in action.
WCLA Division I Championship – Wednesday’s First Round Game Scores
No. 1 Pittsburgh 20, No. 16 Western Washington 4
No. 2 Santa Clara 14, No. 15 Texas A&M 5
No. 14 North Carolina 14, No. 3 UCLA 13
No. 4 Georgia 11, No. 13 San Diego State 6
No. 5 Colorado State 19, No. 12 Cal Poly 11
No. 11 Michigan 8, No. 6 Boston College 7
No. 7 Delaware 12, No. 10 Virginia Tech 5
No. 8 Brigham Young 17, No. 9 Virginia 12
Thursday’s Quarterfinal Games
11 a.m. - No. 1 Pittsburgh (15-1) vs. No. 8 BYU (10-1)
11 a.m. - No. 4 Georgia (14-3) vs. No. 5 Colorado State (13-4)
1 p.m. - No. 11 Michigan (10-4) vs. No. 14 North Carolina (9-3)
1 p.m. - No. 2 Santa Clara (12-2) vs. No. 7 Delaware (10-2)
Thursday’s Consolation Bracket (Games begin at 4 pm)
Western Washington vs. Virginia
Cal Poly vs. San Diego State
UCLA vs. Boston College
Virginia Tech vs. Texas A&M