A Good Kind of Heel Turn: North Carolina Triumph in D1 Lacrosse Championship

The Tar Heels emerged victorious in what was an end-to-end match between two top teams. 

By Alexandra Cadet

After a hard-fought win over Boston College in the final, North Carolina are D1 Women’s Lacrosse Champions. This is the third time in program history that the Tar Heels have won the trophy––and the first time that they’ve done so on the back of an undefeated season. 

The North Carolina squad with the trophy. (Image courtesy of the North State Journal)

Both teams had strong narratives leading up to the final. The Eagles had just finished off titans Maryland in the semis and were hoping for a repeat of their Championship win in 2021; meanwhile, the Tar Heels wanted to take care of unfinished business and claim the trophy that eluded them for the past few years. Most importantly, the shadow of the last two Final Four matches between BC and UNC––both won by the Eagles––loomed large over the two sides and increased hype for this season’s grand finale. That hype wasn’t misplaced, because it was followed by an utterly thrilling Championship game.

As It Happened

A flurry of impressive play saw North Carolina up 5–2 at the end of the first quarter. While Boston College put up a good fight thanks to the heroics of Charlotte North, there was no stopping the Tar Heels’ swarming offense … or Ally Mastroianni’s neat free-position goal, for that matter. On the other hand, the second quarter was incredibly tight. It was ultimately the little things that made the difference between the two sides––whether it was a few missed chances for the Eagles here, or a few moments spent with a man up for the Tar Heels there. 

But in the third quarter, Boston College essentially said “screw the little things.” They had some of their best moments of the game during that period, and it’s honestly hard to choose which one was the coolest. Was it Charlotte North’s absolute banger of a free position goal? How about North’s incredible feint in the build-up to the Eagles’ go-ahead point? Or maybe one of goalkeeper Rachel Hall’s numerous saves to preserve Boston’s momentum? Perhaps it doesn’t matter. After all, each one of these plays was crucial to BC’s ability to take control of the quarter, despite a late equalizer from Mastroianni for UNC. 

The final segment of the game will grab the vast majority of fan and media attention, and for good reason. It was everything one could ask for from a lacrosse match––end-to-end action, solo goals, excellent transitional play, and goalkeeping greatness. This isn’t even mentioning the game’s ending for the ages. Those final fifteen seconds of play with the Tar Heels a goal up are what lacrosse fans and casuals alike live for … or get heart attacks from.

In the end, North Carolina emerged with a richly-deserved victory to cap off an undefeated season. Unfinished business no longer.

The Real Winners

It may be cliché to admit that the real winners (besides the Tar Heels) were the women and girls watching the final at home, but why argue with the truth? Boston College and North Carolina had a fantastic opportunity to show what women’s lacrosse is made of on national television, and they definitely took it. The game was prime viewing, and felt like it could’ve gone either way up until the very end. Plus, it gave more than a few star players a chance to entertain and inspire those tuning in on the big screen.

“[Sunday’s final] was a win for the scores of little girls at home watching the game—the first NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Championship to be aired on ESPN—who witnessed the stars of the sport playing at the highest level,” wrote Shelby Swanson for the Daily Tar Heel. “Young women were astounded by the aggression of NCAA all-time leading scorer Charlotte North, and marveled at the poise of ACC Attacker of the Year Jamie Ortega.” After the display that each and every player helped to put on in the biggest game of the season, it wouldn’t be surprising if their next-generation counterparts decided to pick up sticks and dive into the game. In other words, Sunday’s battle was the best Heel turn one could possibly ask for. 

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