Despite a career-high four goals from sophomore midfielder Leah Monticello (Forest Hills, Md./North Harford), the James Madison women’s lacrosse team dropped a hard-fought 13-9 decision to second-ranked North Carolina on Sunday afternoon at Fetzer Field in the 2015 season opener for both teams.
“I am really proud of our defensive effort in this one against a good North Carolina team,” Head CoachShelley Klaes-Bawcombe said. “We played as a team, supported the ball and worked hard to come up with crucial defensive ground balls that limited their chances. We showed great fight by never giving up, even in the last 10 minutes. Overall, we saw a lot of positives that we can take away from this loss and work on those going into Virginia Tech.”
The defeat marks the first loss in a season opener since the 2007 season, which was Klaes-Bawcombe’s first game at the helm of the Dukes.
After scoring six goals in 17 games as a freshman in 2014 and never scoring more than one goal in a game, Monticello led the way for JMU with her team-high four goals. Senior attacker Stephanie Finley (Media, Pa./Sacred Heart), the Colonial Athletic Association Preseason Player of the Year, tallied the first two goals of the game, but the Tar Heels held her off the scoreboard the rest of the afternoon on the way to the victory.
Junior midfielders Brooks Lawler (Big Lake, Alaska/McDonogh School (Northwestern)) and Jaci Gordon (Groton, Mass./Lawrence Academy) and senior midfielder Alison Curwin (Pittsford, N.Y./Pittsford Sutherland) each tallied one goal apiece in the loss.
Falling behind 2-0 less than five minutes into the game, Finley scored the Dukes’ first goal of the season to cut the lead to 2-1 just 5:10 into the game, but North Carolina got the goal back less than four minutes later to make it 3-1.
After another goal from Finley with 18:45 to play in the frame, Monticello scored her first of four goals just 14 seconds after Finley’s to knot the game at 3-3. From there, Monticello and the Tar Heels traded goals throughout the remainder of the first half with North Carolina taking a 6-5 lead into the break on six goals from six different scorers.
Madison gained its first lead of the game at 7-6 early in the second half thanks to a free-position goal from Gordon and Monticello’s fourth goal of the game on a nice pass from Finley after she had earned a free position attempt. The lead would be short-lived, though, as North Carolina’s Alex Moore scored to tie it up, sparking a 5-0 run that would put the Tar Heels up 11-7 with 13:42 to play. In that same stretch, JMU went 13:40 without finding the back of the net.
Looking to bring the Dukes back into the contest, Lawler ended the UNC run by cutting the lead to 11-8 with 9:30 to play on her first career goal wearing purple and gold, but North Carolina answered back with a goal from Marie McCool to keep the lead at four goals at 12-8. The two teams each tallied one more goal in the final eight minutes, as UNC extended the lead to five at 13-8 on a goal from Molly Hendrick while Curwin tallied her first goal of the year with three minutes to play to make the final score 13-9.
Moore led the Tar Heels with five points on four goals and one assist. It was her first game for the Tar Heels after transferring from USC. Both Hendrick and Brittney Coppa tallied twice while five other players each scored once for Carolina.
The Tar Heels outshot JMU 35-22 in the game. Senior goalkeeper Schylar Healy (Eldersburg, Md./Liberty) came up with 11 saves while two North Carolina keepers made seven saves in the game. North Carolina won the draw control battle, doubling up JMU 16-8 in the category. The Tar Heels also won the turnover battle, forcing JMU into 18 turnovers while committing just 10 of their own.
“Schylar was a rock for us,” Klaes-Bawcombe said. “She came up with huge save after huge save to keep us right in the thick of the game.”
Madison returns to action Thursday, Feb. 12, on the road against Virginia Tech in a 4 p.m. matchup in Blacksburg, Va. The Dukes will host Connecticut three days later on Feb. 15 in a 1 p.m. matchup at University Park for their home opener.