The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday December 3rd

UNC women’s lacrosse heads to Final Four

For the third time in the last four years, the No. 3 North Carolina women’s lacrosse team will face No. 2 Northwestern in the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament.

And while UNC fell in its first two Final Four matchups against Northwestern, the Tar Heels picked up a win against the defending national champions and then-No. 1 Wildcats 11-8 earlier this season.

But for coach Jenny Levy, the regular season victory holds little weight, given Northwestern’s tournament experience and how far both teams have come since that February game.

UNC will approach Friday’s game in Villanova, Pa., with fresh eyes, Levy said.

“They have been in this situation more than we have, and so at some level we’re going in as the underdog — the defending national champ against some kids that have really proven they know how to win,” she said. “Looking at the game in February probably isn’t in our best interest.”

While the Tar Heels have put the regular season victory in the back of their minds, senior midfielder Kara Cannizzaro said she still anticipates the Wildcats to head into Friday’s game with a chip on their shoulders after the loss.

Given the offensive efficiency that UNC has displayed recently, Northwestern will be looking to put a clamp on a strong UNC attack.

The Tar Heels have found the net 32 out of 58 times in their first two tournament games against Loyola and Virginia. And although Cannizzaro and junior attacker Abbey Friend have led UNC offensively all season and in the tournament, with a combined 17 goals and seven assists in two games, six other Tar Heels have also tallied at least one goal each in the postseason.

“They have way too many weapons to be able to focus in on one or two people, so we just have to make sure that we play good team defense and back each other up,” Northwestern coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said in a teleconference on Monday.

While the Tar Heels have never defeated Northwestern in the NCAA Tournament, 2011 was the last time the UNC fell to the Wildcats in the Final Four. Friend, who was a freshman at the time, said she remembers the game all too well, but this time around, the team is seeking a different outcome.

“We’re hoping that the win in the beginning of the year — and just our successful season so far — can kind of push us over top of them this year,” Friend said.

Levy said the Final Four is not where she would like her team to end its storied season.

“It’s where we want to be, but our destination is not just to get to the Final Four,” Levy said. “We’d like to be in a position and create an opportunity for ourselves to play on that last day and compete for the national title.”

Contact the desk editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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