Transcendent Win as Navy Shocks North Carolina


Kelly Larkin had four goals and two assists as Navy shocked defending national champion North Carolina. The Mids are headed to their first final four ever.

With a little less than 20 minutes to play in its NCAA quarterfinal match up with North Carolina, the end of Navy’s unlikely run through the NCAA tournament was charging right at Ingrid Boyum. On a quick restart at midfield, UNC attacker Carly Reed caught a long lob pass at the Navy 12-meter line with no one between her and Boyum, Navy’s goaltender.

“You could kinda see that play being made before it happened with the big overpass,” Boyum said. “I was focused and just ‘track ball, go.’”

Reed shot low, but Boyum kicked her left foot out and deflected the ball wide.

In a back-and-forth game full of turning points, none was bigger than Boyum’s save as Navy upset the defending national champs on their home field 16-14 to advance to its first championship weekend.

When Reed broke free of her defenders, UNC was in the middle of a five-goal run to take its first lead on the Midshipmen and one more, particularly on a flashy breakaway, might have turned the game toward the Tar Heels for good. Instead, the Navy sideline exploded with Boyum’s save and even back upfield, Navy players felt the game shift.

“It’s not very often you get that one-versus-one with the goalie,” said Jenna Collins, who finished with three goals and two assists for the Midshipmen and held off UNC’s usually dominant play in the draw circle. “When the goalie makes a good save, everything just crushes on you.”

“I think it was a huge momentum swing that we defintely needed,” said freshman Kelly Larkin, who led Navy with four goals and two assists.

Revitalized by the big save, the Midshipmen clawed back from three goals down to a tie with a goal from Larkin, one from Collins and one from her Jenna's sister, Julia Collins. Then with just under 10 minutes remaining, Boyum again faced a key play – this time from five yards outside the cage. On a chaotic play in front of the goal, Boyum was whistled for a foul – she said she never was told exactly what the call was – and sent five yards away from the cage for a UNC restart.

“As a goalie, against a team with as great shooters as UNC has, out of the goal is not where you want to be,” Boyum deadpanned after the game. “I just knew I had to get back to the cage.”

On the restart, Navy’s defense kept the Tar Heels from a shot on the open goal long enough for Boyum to jump back in. Then in a dramatic seven-second series, she turned away two point-blank shots, the first to her right as Ali Hazar drove from behind the cage, the second from her left on a diving cut by Sammy Jo Tracy.

“That’s kind of when your mind is turned off and you’re just going,” Boyum said. “That was a whole season worth of practice.”

“They attack from everywhere,” said Navy coach Cindy Timchal, who returns to the NCAA semifinals for the first time since 2003 as the head coach at Maryland. “It’s difficult to get their tendencies. We had our hands full on defense, but they stayed disciplined, let a couple slip by and then toughened up at the end of the game.”

Tracy led the Tar Heels with five goals, her career high, including three during a five-goal burst that nearly broke the game open for the defending champions. Molly Hendrick and Marie McCool, both named first team All-Americans last week, finished with three each. Hendrick also finished with a game-high five draw controls while both Tracy and McCool had four each, but the Tar Heels never found their usual level of dominance at the circle against Jenna Collins, finishing with just a small overall advantage, 18-15.

Tracy ends her North Carolina career tantalizingly short of joining an exclusive group of four-time national title participants. Tracy was a breakout star on the Tar Heels’ 2013 team, scoring the winning goal in triple overtime to beat Maryland in that year’s national title game. An injury redshirt kept her off the field in 2014, and she returned as a key player on UNC’s 2015 national runner-up and the 2016 title team.

Overall, the teams traded 73 shots and 67 fouls, as good an indication as any, outside of the final score, of the speed and aggression both teams played.

For Navy, the game represents a program defining breakthrough, and its fourth straight upset win. The Midshipmen earned their NCAA tournament bid by beating top-seeded Loyola in the Patriot League championship game, then beat No. 7 seed Penn in the first round of the NCAA tournament before cruising past UMass in the second round. Though technically unseeded, Navy’s first-round game at Penn suggests it would have been the 25th seed of the 26-team field. Now the Midshipmen are one of four left.

Navy will play another first-time NCAA semifinalist, Boston College, on Friday in Foxborough, Mass.

“They bought into the idea of transcending a little,” Timchal said. “We thought we could actually be a better team than last weekend.  If we could focus on some little things we could have a go at it today.”

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