UNC women's lacrosse looks to ?nish strong against Vanderbilt

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North Carolina attacker Abbey Friend makes a cut away from a defender earlier this season. She’s UNC’s second-leading scorer.

While only a week remains until the ACC tournament, North Carolina women’s lacrosse coach Jenny Levy does not want her players to get too far ahead of themselves.

The No. 2 Tar Heels (12-2, 4-1 ACC) will travel to Nashville, Tenn. to finish off the regular season with a matchup against Vanderbilt (2-13) on Saturday — a game Levy said should be at the forefront of their minds.

“As coaches, we’re not focused on the ACCs yet and every day in practice we’re challenging the players to work on parts of their games that are going to make us better,” Levy said. “I think that daily grind keeps you in the present moment.”

Vanderbilt heads into the game having struggled defensively all year. The Commodores surrender an average of 14 goals per contest, and have given up 20 or more goals in two games this season.

UNC, on the other hand, allows only eight goals a game while boasting a strong offensive attack, which finds the net about 13 times per contest.

After suffering a disappointing 14-13 loss to ACC foe Maryland
, the Tar Heels bounced back with a 16-4 blowout victory against Jacksonville April 12.

Although senior midfielder Kara Cannizzaro and junior attacker Abbey Friend are UNC’s top two scorers, having combined for 64 goals this season, Levy said the team values production from different scoring options.

“I know Kara’s had a great season and Abbey’s also someone other teams really try to mark out,” Levy said after the Jacksonville win. “For us, it’s really important that everyone on the field is a threat — that everyone plays a role in our victories.”

On paper, UNC played its best lacrosse of the season against Jacksonville, recording its largest margin of victory on the year while the Dolphins’ four goals was the fewest amount the Tar Heels have allowed all season.

But taking into account UNC’s slow start to the Jacksonville game, Friend said the trip to Nashville will be a late-season test of whether UNC can play its best lacrosse for an entire game.

“We had a tough first half against Jacksonville because it was such a fast-paced game. So we’re hoping to not start with a wall like that,” Friend said. “We might have a strong first half in one game and a strong second half in another but we really want to put a whole game together.”

And while Friend admitted to having her eyes set on the ACC tournament, which will be played in Chapel Hill this year, she said her attention is set only in the immediate future.

“It’s tough to not look forward to being able to play the ACC tournament at home but every game no matter the competitor or point in the season is important,” Friend said. “And now, we’re just trying to focus on Vanderbilt.”

Contact the desk editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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