VILLANOVA, PA. - Freshman Sammy Jo Tracy scored in the third, sudden-death overtime period to lift North Carolina to its first NCAA championship in women's lacrosse on Sunday night, outlasting top-seeded and previously undefeated Maryland, 13-12, in the longest title game in the sport's history.
The Tar Heels (18-3) jumped out to a 9-6 halftime advantage before the Terrapins (22-1) stormed back with a 5-0 run to start the second half and take an 11-9 lead. Carolina responded with three consecutive goals, two by NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player Kara Cannizzaro, to retake the lead, 12-11, with 9:00 to play in regulation. Maryland's Alex Aust scored with 3:51 remaining to tie it up and force overtime.
Carolina freshman goalkeeper Megan Ward made a huge save on a Maryland breakaway in the opening seconds of the third overtime period, which led to Tracy's transition goal on the other end, giving the Tar Heels their first national title 12:31 into overtime.
"It was an amazing game to be a part of," head coach Jenny Levy said afterward. "After the second overtime, I just sat back and trusted my kids to do what they do. They've worked so hard all year and I'm very proud of the effort that they showed and their composure."
Levy becomes the fourth coach in women's lacrosse history to win an NCAA championship as a player (with Virginia in 1991) and as a head coach.
It was the second sudden victory overtime in NCAA title game history and the longest game in NCAA Division I championship history. It was the first overtime title game since 2003 and the fifth all-time. Carolina is now 4-0 in overtime games in its NCAA Tournament history.
"I think this will go down as one of the most exciting games in the history of our sport," Terrapin coach Cathy Reese said afterward. "Congratulations to UNC, that was a great game, a great game. And congratulations to their student-athletes on their national championship."
Cannizzzaro led all scorers with four goals and six points, setting a new single-season UNC points record in the process. She finished her senior year with 83 points on 61 goals and 22 assists in 2013. The 61 goals are the second-most in school history behind Kellie Thompson's 62 in 2002. Prior to the season, the Tar Heels dedicated their 2013 season to the same Kellie Thompson Shiley, a three-time UNC All-America who died unexpectedly in childbirth last summer.
Brooke Griffin (two goals and three assists) and Taylor Cummings (three goals and one assist) led Maryland, which also got three goals from Katie Schwarzmann, two from Beth Glaros and a goal and an assist from Aust. Erin Collins also scored once for the Terps.
Carolina scored on each of its first seven shots on the night and led by as many as three goals in the first half, marking Maryland's biggest deficit in over a year (since a 14-11 regular season loss to Carolina on April 7, 2012).
The Tar Heels jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first 4:50 of the contest on two goals by Coppa and one from Messinger. Carolina led the entire first half after taking a 1-0 lead on an unassisted goal by Messinger 39 seconds into the game. Maryland pulled within one goal at 5-4 at the 17:35 mark before Cannizzaro scored back-to-back goals in a span of 1:13 to go back up by three at 7-4.
The Terrapins trailed at the half for the first time this season. The Terrapins had led at the break in every game in 2013 except the regular season meeting with Carolina, when the game was tied 8-all. UNC's nine first-half goals were the most given up by the Terps all year.
During the Terps' 5-0 run to start the second half and take an 11-9 lead with 19:55 to go, they held UNC scoreless for over 16 minutes.
Carolina set a new school record with 18 wins in the 2013 season. The 12 goals in a losing effort by Maryland are the most in NCAA championship game history by a losing team. Sunday's game was the fifth time that two ACC teams met in the NCAA championship game. Maryland and Virginia met for the national title in 1991, 1996, 1998 and 1999.
The Tar Heel championship was the eighth by an ACC team in the 17 years women's lacrosse has been an ACC-sponsored sport. Including years prior to the ACC sponsoring the sport, ACC programs have won 14 titles in the 32-year history of NCAA women's lacrosse. Overall, it was the 130th team national championship in ACC history and the third this academic year, joining UNC women's soccer and Virginia men's tennis.