“She could have withdrawn from school, and no one would have criticized that, when you try to recover from that sort of tragedy,” Coach Anson Dorrance said. “And I was dying for her to come back, not just for us, but for her.”
“And she did. And she was magnificent.”
Against both the Orange and the Seminoles, Elinsky started at the forward position — a spot she has rarely seen time in during her career. Her presence on the front line has been a spark for the Tar Heels.
Having played primarily on the middle and back lines throughout her career, Elinsky has a defensive mentality up top. She steals balls in transition and can hold steady against strong defenders. This has allowed other players — namely first-year Bridgette Andrzejewski — to find open spaces behind the defense instead of being forced to play with the ball at their feet.
“We connect really well up top ...” Andrzejewski said. “We’re excited to have her back. And obviously you can see she helps us on the field.”
Andrzejewski scored twice in UNC’s win over Syracuse, and she led the team with four shots in the game against the Seminoles.
Elinsky’s return could not have come sooner for the Tar Heels. With Thursday’s win, UNC locked up the No. 4 seed in the ACC Tournament and the opportunity to play its quarterfinal match against Virginia at home.
“We started her in the last game, and all of a sudden it was a piece that helped us click,” Dorrance said.
For the Tar Heels, Elinsky’s decision to come back so soon after her brother’s death has been immensely important. But it has meant even more for her to come back to a team that was there from the beginning.
“I just figured I had to get back into what I love to do, and that’s what my brother would want me to do,” Elinsky said. “And I’m so glad I did. I’ve just been surrounded by so much love with my team, so I’m so proud of having them by my side, and I’m really glad that I came back.”