mage courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications
By Daniel Merriman
JMU lacrosse toppled the Tar Heels on Saturday thanks to a clutch overtime game-winner from Katelyn Morgan. Her low stick savviness sent the ball ripping through the nylon for JMU’s 19th goal of the game, handing the Dukes a 19-18 victory.
No. 6 JMU fought through the incredibly competitive contest against No. 3 UNC, which saw both sides go on notable scoring runs. The goal-scoring fest saw a total of 37 goals scored between both squads.
Let’s take a look into how JMU pulled off this top-5 win in its season opener.
Powerful offensive punch
Maddie Epke and Isabella Peterson stole the show at the attacker position. Epke had a stellar performance with seven goals and one assist. Epke was constantly attacking and got downhill at will. Peterson added five goals and one assist while being double-teamed for a good portion of the game. Epke finished the fourth quarter with three straight goals to give JMU a 2-goal lead.
”She’s doing so well and I’m so proud of her,” Peterson said of Epke. “I have a lot of faith that she is going to be amazing this year.”
Unfortunately for JMU, the last 2:20 of regulation saw UNC score two goals and tie the game at 18. The Dukes and Tar Heels pushed the top-10 affair into overtime.
At the start of the OT period, Epke won her 10th draw control of the game, which led to an eventual Katelyn Morgan game-winning strike.
“I was really proud of our offensive unit to be able to put them on their back heels like that,” JMU head coach Shelley Klaes said.
The OT win marks the first time JMU has beaten UNC since the Dukes’ national championship year in 2018.
Editor’s note: Thanks to Three Notch’d Brewing for their advertising support.
Peterson remarked postgame about what a UNC victory could mean for JMU, saying, ”Last time we beat UNC we won the National Championship, maybe that’s some foreshadowing.”
The Dukes are coming off an Elite Eight loss last year against Syracuse. This team is hungry and poised for more during the 2024 season.
The win over UNC was the first of many tests for the Dukes this season as they face a rock solid schedule. James Madison looks well prepared for their brutal schedule, as they were never too high and never too low while playing UNC. When a team this talented is connected and coached at an extremely high level, good things happen.
While North Carolina was down several key contributors, the Tar Heels won the 2022 national title and won a pair of NCAA Tournament games in 2023. JMU looked like an equal to the Heels for every second of this game while winning four fewer draw controls and starting plenty of new faces on the defensive end. This JMU team could be very special if its season opener is any indication.
“We are just so hungry this year,” Epke said. “We knew we deserved this [win] and it was our time to earn it.”