UNC beats Northwestern in semis

VILLANOVA, Pa. -- Kara Cannizzaro scored four straight goals in a 7:20 span in the second half to help third-seeded North Carolina beat two-time defending national champion Northwestern 11-4 on Friday in the NCAA women's lacrosse semifinals.

Abbey Friend added three goals for the Tar Heels (17-3). North Carolina will play top-seeded Maryland or No. 4 Syracuse in the final Sunday.

"We're just really excited," North Carolina coach Jenny Levy said. "I really liked how we competed. I thought we were poised, we stuck together and we executed on things, especially on the defensive end, that were special."

Kat DeRonda had a goal and assist for second-seeded Northwestern (19-3). The Wildcats, winners of seven of the past eight NCAA titles, also lost to North Carolina on Feb. 22.

"We made a lot of errors and didn't finish our shots," Northwestern coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. "We had our chances, and on a big stage you have to be calm and cool and finish those chances. We didn't finish our opportunities."

Northwestern was 0-for-9 on free-position shots and matched a season low for goals.

"We wanted to make them uncomfortable, change things up and never let them get into a rhythm," Levy said.

North Carolina held Northwestern to 16 shots.

"We switched up our defense and every one of our defenders played so well," said North Carolina goalie Megan Ward, who made seven saves. "I feel really confident going into the championship game because our team played so well."

In North Carolina's only other appearance in the final, the Tar Heels lost to Northwestern 21-9 in 2009.

Friend scored two first-half goals to help North Carolina to a 4-1 halftime advantage. And the Tar Heels opened the second half with three straight goals, capped by Kelly Devlin's goal on a free position that put them up 7-1 with just under 23 minutes left.

Alyssa Leonard and Kelly Rich scored to pull Northwestern to 7-3 with 18:55 remaining, but Cannizzaro scored four straight goals over the next 7:20 to put the Tar Heels ahead 11-3 with 11:35 left. Cannizzaro, who entered Friday with a team-high 53 goals, credited her teammates' performance -- particularly in the first half when she was held scoreless.

"They totally shut me down (in the first half)," Cannizzaro said. "My team did amazing. When I get going, I think everyone feels a little momentum swing. But my team carried us in the first half and that's what allowed us to explode in the second half. My team was able to produce when I was shut down in the first half. I have to give everything to my team."

The Wildcats played short-handed in the final 15:45 after Leonard received a second yellow card.