For all of the individual glory and accolades Cazenovia native Kara Cannizzaro picked up in four years with North Carolina's women's lacrosse team, all she really wanted – for herself and for her teammates – was a national championship.
In a long, draining and dramatic way, Cannizzaro and the Tar Heels earned that national title last Sunday night, going through five overtimes before edging undefeated, top-ranked Maryland 13-12 in the NCAA championship game at Villanova University near Philadelphia.
In her career at UNC, Cannizzaro picked up 157 goals and 46 assists. She had 19 goals as a freshman in 2010, 35 as a sophomore one year later, and 42 goals, to go with 10 assists, in 2012.
As a senior, Cannizzaro picked up 61 goals and 22 assists and earned first-team All-American status. The Tar Heels went 13-2 in the regular season and made the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament final before falling to Maryland 12-8. They would meet again, though.
In the NCAA tournament, UNC got going with a 19-9 romp over Loyola (Md.), where Cannizzaro had five goals and two assists. Then came a 13-9 quarterfinal win over Virginia where she tacked on three more goals and added a pair of assists.
Then it was on to Villanova, where in the national semifinals the Heels met defending champion Northwestern. It was Cannizzaro taking personal control in the second half, scoring four consecutive goals as UNC beat the Wildcats 11-4, ending a streak where Northwestern had made every title game from 2005 to 2012.
All of this led to the final against Maryland, who had twice beaten UNC during the spring – a 14-13 thriller April 6 at College Park, and a 12-8 decision in the ACC final, and had just eliminated Syracuse in the other national semifinal. Cannizzaro and the Tar Heels were bent on winning the last and most important encounter.