CHAPEL HILL - Defending national champion North Carolina got hat tricks from four players and won its 2014 Atlantic Coast Conference opener, 19-9, over new member Notre Dame on a chilly Fetzer Field on Thursday night. Freshman Carly Reed led the Tar Heels with a season-high five goals and one assist.
UNC improves to 5-0 overall and 1-0 in the ACC with the victory. The Tar Heels have won nine games in a row dating back to last season. Notre Dame falls to 2-2, 0-2 in conference play.
Twelve of Carolina's 19 goals came from freshmen like Reed. Sydney Holman had three goals and two assists, Maggie Bill had two goals and one assist and Molly Hendrick had two goals in addition to Reed's five.
Senior Abbey Friend (three goals and two assists) and sophomore Aly Messinger (three goals and two assists) also had key performances in the victory. Senior Taylor George also added a goal, as did senior Sloane Serpe, who had an assist in the first half for her first career point in her 66th career game.
Serpe, Friend, Messinger all grabbed spots on the Tewaaraton Award watch list on Thursday evening as well.
"I feel like we can score in a lot of different ways," Tar Heel head coach Jenny Levy said after the game. "We have a lot of different weapons. I'm really impressed with how efficiently we are finishing, and we're really unselfish with the ball. I thought tonight was a really good example of how dynamic we can be offensively."
Notre Dame got two goals from Hannah Harman and Cortney Fortunato, the freshman sensation who was hounded by UNC defenders Serpe and Margaret Corzel all night and scored her two goals on seven shots while committing two turnovers. Kirea McMullan, Heidi Annaheim, Brie Custis, Casey Pearsall and Molly Shawhan each scored once for the Fighting Irish.
After a scoreless opening five minutes of the game as the teams felt each other out, Carolina scored five goals in just over six minutes to grab the early lead. The Tar Heels controlled possession and played at a fast pace early, and Messinger scored twice during that opening run.
After Carolina led 7-2 a few minutes later, the Fighting Irish grabbed momentum with a 3-1 scoring run in a 10-minute span late in the first half. The Tar Heels took the air out of the Notre Dame rally just before halftime. Holman and Messinger worked well together all night and teamed up on a Holman goal off a Messinger assist with 13 seconds left that put Carolina back up by five at 9-4.
Freshmen Bill and Reed scored the first two goals of the second half for the Tar Heels, who proceeded to build 10-goal leads at 17-7 and 18-8 in the final 10 minutes of the game.
Megan Ward started in goal for the fifth consecutive time this season, playing well in the first half with four saves. For the fifth game in a row, freshman Caylee Waters played the second half, making two saves.
Carolina will return to action on Sunday March 1 at 1 p.m. against Penn at Fetzer Field in Chapel Hill.