May 22, 2009

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Zimmerman Pronounces UNC's Title Game Arrival

by Clare Lochary | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff | NCAA Semifinals Blog

Laura Zimmerman came off the bench to score three goals Friday in North Carolina's 8-7, NCAA semifinal upset of Maryland.

© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

TOWSON, Md. -- North Carolina women's lacrosse coach Jenny Levy knew she had something special with Laura Zimmerman.

During a September camping trip, the team played a "friendly" game of Knock Out and suddenly Zimmerman, a petite blonde, was throwing elbows and whipping basketballs into the woods. It was clear Levy had a competitor on her hands.

"She's continued to impress on the team all year. She's one of our hardest workers and nobody's surprised at what she did tonight," said Levy.

Zimmerman came off the bench to score a team-high three goals, including the game-winner, to lift the Tar Heels over Maryland, 8-7. Zimmerman had just nine goals entering the game, but she caught a feed from junior Megan Bosica (1g, 2a) and beat Maryland goalie Brittany Dipper (6 saves) to score the game winner.

"You just come out and do the best you can and hope you're in the right place at the right time," said Zimmerman, a Westhill (N.Y) High School grad from Syracuse.

Zimmerman -- and all the Tar Heels -- are indeed in the right place at the right time.

The upset of Maryland landed North Carolina into its first national championship game after four frustrating years of quarterfinal losses. The Tar Heels defense, anchored by Tewaaraton finalist Amber Falcone, held the high-octane Terps offense to a season-low goal total, while Zimmerman gave the offense a much-needed spark.

In a final four featuring two undefeated teams (Northwestern and Maryland) and the nation's top defense (Penn), Carolina was expected to be the just-happy-to-be-here underdog. Instead it clamped down on the Terps and didn't allow them to play the fast transition game, and built on Zimmerman's goals to come away with an unlikely win.

"We haven't ever won pretty, and it's OK. It doesn't matter," said Levy, who grinned her way through her first semifinal press conference.

North Carolina's regular season meeting with Northwestern certainly wasn't pretty. On March 1, the Tar Heels had a 4-2 lead 10 minutes into the game when driving rain forced officials to cancel the game. On the next day, a freak snow storm hit Chapel Hill, and the teams and coaching staffs had to dig out the turf field at Henry Stadium to play. Northwestern won that game, 12-7, but the rematch in the national championship will be different.

First of all, it won't be snowing. Secondly, Zimmerman didn't play at all in that game. Back then she was just a nervous freshman on the bench watching her fourth college game. Now she's a force to be reckoned with.

So is Carolina.


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