A year ago, Aly Messinger was the driving force in leading North Carolina to the women’s lacrosse national championship. Saturday, she played a major role in preventing the Tar Heels from defending their title. Now an assistant coach at Navy, Messinger’s tactical and motivational contributions helped her new team shock her old one in an NCAA tournament upset of epic proportions. The Midshipmen rallied from a three-goal second half deficit and the loss of its senior captain for a 16-14 victory at Fetzer Field that dethroned the defending champs and earned Navy its first ever Final Four appearance. “Aly actually had a word for us last night (at a team meeting),” Navy goal Ingrid Boyum said. “She said you guys need to go out there and be relentless.” Boyum and her teammates heeded Messinger’s advice by weathering a second half surge by the Tar Heels and roaring from behind by outscoring UNC 6-1 over the final 17 ½ minutes. The Tar Heels (17-3) appeared headed for a third straight Final Four trip when they ran off five straight goals early in the second half to take a 13-10 lead — the biggest advantage of the game for either team. But Navy changed the momentum when Boyum made a spectacular kick save on a one-on-one opportunity against UNC’s Carly Reed. The Midshipmen (18-4) tied the game by scoring the next three goals — including two 30 seconds apart by twins Jenna and Julia Cooper. The second-seeded Tar Heels briefly regained the lead when Sammy Jo Tracy scored her career-high fifth goal of the game, but Meg O’Donnell answered back for the Midshipmen with 6:10 left for what turned out to be the game winner. In all, seven Navy players scored in the game. “Their offense is run by Aly Messinger, coincidentally,” Levy said. “They just attack you. We thought coming in that this was a really dynamic offense that plays well together, with seven full threats and have a lot of belief in each other. I thought their whole group hurt us at some point today,” The news was also bad for Duke in the men’s tournament. The Blue Devils were eliminated Saturday with a 16-11 loss to third-seeded Ohio State in Hempstead, N.Y. The Blue Devils outshot the Buckeyes 45-31, but senior attackman Eric Fannell scored five goals and added two assists to offset the advantage and lift Ohio State to its first ever Final Four appearance. Jack Bruckner led Duke (13-5) with three goals and an assist to finish his career with 146 goals and 196 points. He was held scoreless, however, during a first half in which the Blue Devils dug themselves a 9-4 hole from which they were never able to recover.
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