No. 1 Tar Heel women crush No. 4 Gators in 2014 debut
Imagine what Sydney Holman might have achieved if she hadn’t developed a slight case of the jitters prior to her UNC women’s lacrosse debut.
The freshman attacker scored five goals, three unassisted, and contributed two assists for the defending NCAA champs and No. 1-ranked Tar Heels on Saturday, helping to lift UNC to a surprisingly easy 20-8 win over No. 4 Florida in the season opener for both teams.
“I was a little nervous before the game,” Holman said. “I tried to calm my nerves. I always play better when I can stay calm and poised.”
Holman, who led East Chapel Hill to the 2013 high school state championship and holds the state high school record with 416 career goals, tied UNC senior sensation Abbey Friend for the scoring lead at 7 points.
Friend, a preseason second-team all-America attacker who medaled in the World Cup with the Canadian national team in 2009 and 2013, also had five goals and two assists.
Senior midfielder Taylor George and sophomore attacker Aly Messinger had hat tricks for Carolina.
Junior midfielder Shannon Gilroy led Florida with four goals and an assist. Her fourth goal, at 7:18 of the second half, on a delayed possession shot, was the 100th of her career. She also had a career high 10 shots.
Holman, rated the No. 5 incoming freshman in the nation, acknowledged “a bunch” of her family formed a cheering section for her inaugural game. She seemed almost as awestruck about playing with the defending national champs as she did with her day’s offensive production.
“Being able to step out on the field at Fetzer is a huge accomplishment, and I’m so lucky to be here,” Holman said. “I always come out here playing my best and playing my hardest, so luckily the goals fell in, and some assists. (I) couldn’t have done it without the help of my teammates.”
She was particularly complimentary of Friend.
“She feeds the ball, and I can always count on her scoring goals,” said Holman, whose score at 26:41 of the second period came after Friend was fouled, but on her ensuing free-position shot settled for an assist by flipping to Holman for the score.
“Definitely the biggest thing is for me to help my teammates, and help them get better,” Friend said. “I was in Sydney’s position starting my freshman year, jumping in against Florida, who’s a powerhouse and always has been.”
“Abbey’s a real important piece of our team this year,” coach Jenny Levy, now in her 19th year, said of Friend. “She calms everybody down, and when she gets going, not just scoring goals but communicating, ball movement, reassuring the younger guys, I think that her leadership is really important for us on the field.”
George said the team is not getting caught up in the hype about being ranked No. 1 or defending its NCAA crown.
“I think we pretty much don’t pay attention to that. We just take every game and every play one at a time, and for us, it’s a different team every year,” George said. “We have different strengths than we had last year. We have new dimensions that we didn’t have before.”
But, she allowed, crushing the No 4 team so handily was momentous.
“It’s just huge for us, and I think it will give us a lot of great momentum in our upcoming games,” George said.
“I think it’s a long season, and obviously Florida lost a big class last year, and they’re starting a lot of freshmen and sophomores,” Levy said. “The ACC is going to be a bear this year and a lot of fun to play in, yet we’re going to come across some really great players, and we need to be prepared as a team to do that.”
The Tar Heels dominated the stats sheet. They outshot the Gators 41-24, had an 18-11 margin in draw controls and 24-12 in ground balls, and had just 18 fouls compared to 36 for Florida. If there was an edge for Florida, it was converting 4 of 8 free-position shots. UNC scored just twice on its 7 free-position chances.
NO. 1 UNC 20, NO. 4 FLORIDA 8
UNC goals – Abbey Friend 5, Sydney Holman 5, Aly Messinger 3, Taylor George 3, Maggie Bill 1, Molly Hendrick 1, Carly Reed 1, Lindsay Scott 1
UNC assists — Holman 2, Friend 2, Sam McGee 1, Bill 1, Morgan Rubin 1
Florida goals – Shannon Gilroy 4, Sammi Burgess 1, Mollie Stevens 1, Sam Darcangelo 1, Darcy Messina 1
Florida assists —Burgess 2, Gilroy 1
Shots: UNC 41, UF 24
Ground balls: UNC 24, UF 12
Draw controls: UNC 18, UF 11
Free-position shots: UNC 2-7, UF 4-8
Goalkeepers: UNC — Megan Ward (60:00 minutes, 8 goals allowed, 9 saves); Florida — Cara Canington (46:36 minutes, 13 goals allowed, 12 saves), Mary-Sean Wilcox (13:24 minutes, 8 goals allowed, 2 saves)
Fouls: UNC 18, UF 36
Turnovers: UNC 10, UF 13