May 23, 2009

TOWSON, MD. - Freshman Laura Zimmerman scored a season-high three goals, including the game-winner with 8:22 left in the second half, to lead the University of North Carolina women's lacrosse team to an 8-7 win over Maryland on Friday night in the NCAA Tournament semifinals at Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson, Md.

Third-seeded UNC improves to 16-4 this season while second-seeded Maryland falls to 21-1. The Carolina win avenges a 13-8 loss to the Terrapins on April 11. Maryland's seven goals were a season low.

UNC advances to Sunday's NCAA championship game to face top-seeded and four-time defending NCAA champion Northwestern, which beat Penn, 13-12, in double overtime in Friday's first semifinal. Sunday's game will begin at 5:30 p.m. Northwestern leads the all-time series with Carolina, 5-1, including a 12-7 win in Chapel Hill earlier this season.

Carolina is making its fourth Final Four appearance overall and first since 2002. Friday's win was the Tar Heels' first in the national semifinals. UNC lost its semifinal games in 1997, 1998 and 2002. Maryland entered game having won last four meetings against UNC and eight of the last 10 matchups

Zimmerman's three goals led the Tar Heels on Friday. Megan Bosica had two goals and two assists for Carolina. Jenn Russell, Kristen Taylor and Corey Donohoe each scored single goals for UNC. Maryland's Karri Ellen Johnson scored four goals for the Terrapins. Sarah Mollison scored twice for the Terps and Laura Merrifield added a goal and an assist.

The methodical pace of the game was to the liking of the Tar Heels, who entered the game having given up 10 or more goals just six times all season while Maryland averaged almost 16 goals per contest in winning its first 21 games of the season.

The two teams traded goals early and the game was tied at three goals apiece after the first 18:28 of action. Maryland struck first on a goal by Johnson seven minutes into the game. Johnson took a pass from McFadden from behind the cage and quickly scored to make the score 1-0 Terrapins at the 22:57 mark, shortly after UNC's Kristen Carr received a yellow card in the Carolina offensive end. The Tar Heels responded quickly, tying the score at 1-1 just over a minute later when Bosica scored a free position goal at 21:43.

Johnson scored again at the 18:56 mark, fighting through traffic for an unassisted goal that made the score 2-1 Terrapins. Carolina quickly tied it up again when Zimmerman drove in from the left of the cage and scored her 10th goal of the season, unassisted, at the 17:50 mark.

Mollison put the Terps up 3-2 with 15:34 left in the half, taking a pass from Laura Merrifield and scoring from the right wing after a Tar Heel foul. Taylor pulled the Tar Heels back into a tie with a free position goal with 11:32 to go before the break. Carolina grabbed its first lead of the game on Zimmerman's second goal of the night, as the freshman took a pretty pass from Bosica and scored with 3:17 to go. Merrifield tied the score a minute and a half later, slicing in from the left side of the cage and bouncing the ball into the cage past UNC keeper Logan Ripley with 1:46 left.

Carolina had possession of the ball for roughly the last minute of the half but could not get off a shot. The two teams entered the lockerroom tied at four goals each, with the four goals tying Maryland's lowest first-half output of the season. Carolina held a 6-2 advantage in draw controls in the opening period, Maryland had a 9-6 edge in ground balls and the two teams each took 12 shots.

Johnson scored quickly for Maryland to start the second half, spinning in front of the cage and scoring her third goal of the night with 29:00 left. The Tar Heels responded with three consecutive goals to take a 7-5 lead. Russell tied the score at the 25:20 mark of the half, cutting straight to the goal from the top of the eight-meter arc and scoring after Maryland's McFadden fell down on defense. Donohoe put the Tar Heels back ahead by a goal at 6-5 with a free position score with 22:06 left. Thirty seconds later, Bosica scored her second goal of the night to put UNC up 7-5 with 21:33 to play.

Johnson scored her fourth goal with 14:42 left to stop the Carolina scoring run and pull the Terps within a goal at 7-6. Mollison scored her second goal of the night to tie the score at 7-all, wrapping around the goal and barely getting the ball across the goal line past Ripley.

Zimmerman put Carolina back ahead with 8:22 left, taking a pass from Bosica and scoring her third goal for an 8-7 lead that would prove to be the final margin.

Ripley played very well for UNC in the cage, recording seven saves. Brittany Dipper had six saves in goal for Maryland.