UNC women's lacrosse prepares to face No. 1 Northwestern

During the past several years, the North Carolina and Northwestern women’s lacrosse programs have shared an interesting history.

But given that Northwestern leads the series against UNC 10-2, the term “rivalry” may not be the best label for the relationship.

As the No. 5 Tar Heels prepare for tonight’s game at Fetzer Field against defending national champion Northwestern, coach Jenny Levy said she’s confident in the challenge UNC presents to the Wildcats each time the two teams face off.

Levy said Katrina Dowd, a first-year UNC assistant coach and former Northwestern player, can also attest to the toughness with which the Tar Heels always play Northwestern.

“From the horse’s mouth, Northwestern hasn’t lost much in the past, but we’re one of the teams that has beaten them,” Levy said. “We would like to have beaten them more, but we’re not winless against them like other teams in the country.

“We look forward to the opportunity to play the best competition we can and see where we are as a program.”

Senior Kara Cannizzaro said tonight’s game against Northwestern will help assess UNC’s strength as a team early in the season.

But she said defeating the No. 1 Wildcats will not be an indication of how successful the Tar Heels will be in the postseason.

During Cannizzaro’s freshman year, UNC defeated the Wildcats in the regular season only to fall to them in the national semifinal.

“I think it would be big to win, and this is what you come to Carolina for — to play in big games like this,” Cannizzaro said. “But it’s more of a game to see where we are in the season, not how we’re going to end up.”

Cannizzaro, who leads the Tar Heels with eight goals in three games, will go against a tough Wildcat defense that has only surrendered nine goals in two games. Northwestern’s offense also boasts with seven players with three or more goals.

Levy said the Tar Heels must play a complete game tonight, taking into account both UNC’s tendency to allow opponents to rally back against an early Tar Heel lead and Northwestern’s strength on both sides of the field.

“We’ve started games fast … and that’s something we want to see again,” Levy said. “But we also want to maintain that intensity and the quality of our work throughout entire games.”

Levy added that the outcome of the game will be determined by how smart the Tar Heels play. She said last year’s 8-7 loss ultimately came down to UNC’s mental errors.

UNC has lost to the Wildcats by a single goal in each of the last three meetings.

“They’re very well-coached, and their style of play forces you into mental errors,” Levy said. “So I think we have to be mentally prepared and composed when we play them or else those small mistakes will turn into game-changing ones.”

Contact the desk editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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