CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – After spotting No. 5 North Carolina a 4-0 lead in the first 3:10, Towson University (0-1) gave the Tar Heels all they could handle the rest of the way before North Carolina (1-1) held on for a 9-6 victory at Fetzer Field on Friday afternoon.
However, the Tar Heels responded by scoring the next three goals to extend their lead to 9-5 with 15 minutes left in the game.
“We got off to a very slow start and the jitters were evident,” said Coach Sonia LaMonica, the two-time Colonial Athletic Association Coach of the Year. “I could tell we were very tense. So, we took a time out and we told them to relax. I am really very proud of the way we regained our focus and started playing in the moment. Once we settled into the game, we had to beat to beat the No. 5 team in the country.”
Senior Kara Cannizzaro scored on her first three shots of the game to give Carolina a 3-0 advantage. Her first goal came just 35 seconds into the contest and she added her second goal with 28:05 left in the half on a fast break. With 26:10 remaining in the half, she added a free position goal.
Freshman Ally Messenger gave the Tar Heels a 4-0 advantage when she scored with 25:50 remaining in the half.
LaMonica got the Tigers on the scoreboard moments later when she took a pass from junior Rhiannon Coogle and cut the deficit to 4-1. With 19:04 remaining in the half, Cannizzaro scored on another free position opportunity. Her fourth goal of the game was her 100th career goal and put the Tar Heels up, 5-1.
But, the Tiger defense stepped up and shut out the Tar Heels for the rest of the half. Meanwhile, the Tigers cut their deficit to 5-3 on goals senior Kelly Custer and sophomore Sarah Maloof. Despite being outshot by a 14-3 margin in the first half, the Tigers were only trailing at intermission, 5-3. Towson scored on all three of its first half shots.
Senior Jessica Griffin gave North Carolina its first goal in 19:31 when she scored in the first minute of the second half as UNC took a 6-3 advantage.
But, LaMonica scored her second goal of the game off a pass from Maloof to cut the Tigers’ deficit to 6-4 with 28:30 left. Less than two minutes later, senior Olivia Turner scored off a pass from LaMonica to pull Towson to within 6-5 with 26:33 to play.
Freshman Sammy Jo Tracy provided the Tar Heels with a little breathing room with 21:19 left when she came from behind and scored the first goal of her career to put UNC ahead, 7-5. An unassisted goal by Messenger with 20:10 remaining upped the lead to 8-5. When junior Abbey Friend scored with 15 minutes remaining, the Tar Heels owned a 9-5 advantage.
From that point on, the Tar Heels did their best to keep the ball away from Towson. With 5:30 left, Maloof scored her second goal of the game to pull Towson to within 9-6.
“Although I’m pleased with our effort, this is a game we could have won,” said Coach LaMonica. “Not to take anything away from North Carolina, but we were our own worst enemy today. We hurt ourselves a lot with our troubles clearing the ball. We had some great opportunities but we couldn’t finish plays.”
Making the first start of her college career, goalkeeper Kelsea Donnelly had eight saves and kept the Tigers in the game.
“Kelsea got into a rhythm after a tough start,” said Coach LaMonica. “She faced a couple of tough shots early but she came back strong and remained composed. She did an awesome job and made some stellar saves.”
Jackie LaMonica led the Tigers with two goals and one assist while Maloof added a pair of goals and had an assist.
Cannizzaro led the Tar Heels with four goals.