CHAPEL HILL – No. 17 Penn ventured to Tobacco Road for its biggest test of the early season and went toe-to-toe with the defending national champs for a large portion of the game before No. 1 North Carolina pulled away in the final five minutes and the Quakers were defeated, 13-8.
Penn (1-1), led four different times in the first half against the Tar Heels (6-0), and played the reigning champions even through the opening stages of the second half before a 6-1 North Carolina run to close the game staved off any chance to knock off the nation’s top team. The Quakers would not go quietly, scoring on a Lely DeSimone goal with 6:23 remaining to close within two goals, 10-8. That ultimately would be as close as Penn would get, a two-goal spurt from North Carolina in a span of 20 seconds closing the door for good.
Five different players scored for the Quakers, led by senior Tory Bensen who had three to give her eight goals in two games to star 2014. DeSimone scored twice – her second consecutive game with two goals – while Iris Williamson, Lindsey O’Loughlin and Courtney Tomchik each had one goal.
In the first half, it was timely offense and staunch defense from the Quakers which gave the Red and Blue an even stake in the game. Tomchik struck first for the Quakers, opening the game’s scoring 1:26 in with a free position goal. That goal put North Carolina in an unfamiliar position – trailing in a game. Dating back to the NCAA Championship Game last May, the Tar Heels had not trailed in a game since Maryland had held an 11-10 lead. Including UNC’s first five games of 2014 – in which the Tar Heels never trailed – it had been 364:10 of game play since Carolina had to play from behind. After the Tar Heels tied the game four minutes later, Bensen connected on her first of the game off a behind-goal feed from Nina Corcoran at the 7:58 mark. Just before the midway point of the half, DeSimone deposited her first of the game to give the Red and Blue a 3-2 lead.
North Carolina would put together its best run of the opening half after DeSimone’s goal, scoring three in a row to take a 5-3 lead. Undeterred, the Quakers posted a three-goal spurt of their own to reclaim the lead. Bensen had two in the run, scoring twice in 2:15 with under seven minutes to play. Williamson, who assisted on Bensen’s second goal, added one of her own with 2:59 remaining in the first half to give Penn a 6-5 lead. That advantage was short lived, however, as Maggie Bill scored her second of four goals in the game just 12 seconds after Williamson’s goal to tie the game, 6-6, heading to halftime.
In the first half, Lucy Ferguson made five saves, including two on free position attempts in the span of 36 seconds early in the period, She finished the game with 10 saves and kept North Carolina at bay on free positions as the Heels missed on all three eight meter attempts taken in the game. Through two games, the Quakers have yet to concede a goal on a free position attempt as opponents are 0-for-5.
The second half picked up where the first left off, both sides fighting for separation. Bill scored 35 seconds into the second stanza to give UNC a 7-6 lead, but O’Loughlin’s first of the season with 19:42 remaining in the game tied proceedings once more. North Carolina finally was able to pull away a bit, scoring the next three goals – two by Abbey Friend – to claim a 10-7 lead with 9:42 to play.
DeSimone would cut into the lead with her second of the day with 6:23 remaining, but goals from Taylor George and Bill 20 seconds apart with under five minutes to play were too much for the Quakers to overcome.
Shots were pretty much even in the game, North Carolina holding a slight 26-21 advantage. Ferguson’s 10 saves helped keep the Tar Heels well below their 20.6 goals-per-game averaged over the first five games on 2014.
Despite a decided disadvantage on the draws (UNC won that stat, 16-7) the Quakers were able to stay in the game thanks to a concerted effort on defense. North Carolina had 14 turnovers in the game, 10 caused directly by Penn. Meg Markham had three caused turnovers to lead all players, while Ferguson had two. Leah McBride, Iris Williamson, Lauren D’Amore, Allie Martin and Taylor Foussadier each had one caused turnover as part of the team effort.
Penn had 24 ground balls to 18 for the Tar Heels, led by Ferguson, Markham, Williamson, D’Amore and Lindsey Smith who each had three. Overall, 13 of the 18 players who saw action for the Quakers had at least one ground ball.
Bill’s four goals led UNC, with Abbey Friend and Taylor George each adding three. Caylee Waters made five saves after coming on to start the second half to pick up the win.
The Quakers will return to Franklin Field on March 5 to take on Rutgers at 6 p.m. With more snow expected in the Philadelphia area this week, please check PennAthletics.com for any updates on the scheduling of that game.