CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - No. 5 North Carolina came out on top in a defensive battle between two top-10 teams as the Tar Heels knocked off the No. 7 Duke women's lacrosse team, 4-2, Friday night from Fetzer Field.
In a game that saw the two squads combine for more turnovers (28) than shots (23), slippery field conditions prevented both teams from finding a rhythm on offense as Duke (8-5, 2-2 ACC) was held to its lowest total since 1997. The Blue Devils won the draw 5-3 and picked up 14 ground balls to 13 for the Tar Heels, but Duke could not capitalize on its opportunities down the stretch.
Duke's defense turned in a solid performance, holding UNC to four goals, over 10 fewer than the Tar Heels' season average (14.27). The Blue Devils kept North Carolina's high-scoring trio of Laura Zimmerman, Abbey Friend and Becky Lynch, who have combined for 125 points this season, in check, allowing those three to total just one goal and three assists. Senior goaltender Mollie Mackler made five saves in the game, while freshman Gabby Moise earned her first career start and limited Friend to one assist.
"Our defense was just phenomenal tonight," said head coach Kerstin Kimel. "We held all of their top scorers in check except for [Becky] Lynch; I think she had a goal. For Gabby [Moise], a freshman, first game's she started, and she hasn't played that much for us this year, she prepared hard all week and just did an awesome job on Abbey Friend. I'm really proud of her. I'm really proud of our whole defensive unit. I thought they were really, really our strength tonight."
North Carolina (11-1, 3-0 ACC) took command early in the contest with Emily Garrity scoring the first goal of the game just 49 seconds after the opening draw. The Blue Devils' defense responded and did not allow the Tar Heels another goal in the first half.
Despite solid play on defense, turnovers plagued both teams as Duke and North Carolina combined for 20 in the opening half. With four minutes remaining in the first period, junior Makenzie Hommel earned a free position chance, one of seven on the night for Duke, and netted the Blue Devils' lone score of the opening frame.
Redshirt senior Emma Hamm came up with the ensuing draw control, but neither team got a shot off before the intermission. North Carolina led in shots, 10-4, for the first half as the teams were tied 1-1 heading into the locker room.
Early in the second half, Duke appeared to have taken the lead after freshman Kerrin Maurer rolled the crease and found the back of the net, however, the goal was negated following a stick check. On the Tar Heels' following possession, Friend tried to feed the ball from behind the cage when Mackler knocked it out of the air. The ball eked over the goal line, giving North Carolina the 2-1 lead with 23:06 left.
Thirteen minutes elapsed before North Carolina added its third goal, and the Tar Heels made it a 4-1 game with 6:20 to play off a Lynch tally. Hamm added the final goal of the game off a free position with 1:45 to go, but time ran out on the Blue Devils.
Duke plays host to Boston College Saturday, April 7 in its last ACC regular season game.