National championships are usually considered to be a rare, perfect culmination of years of team chemistry, on-the-field experience and off-the-field development.
But the North Carolina women’s lacrosse team is hoping to reload and repeat last year’s title run with a new-look squad, including new senior leaders and fresh first-year faces.
After the Tar Heels cruised to 4-0 on the season with a 22-8 home victory against Vanderbilt on Saturday, coach Jenny Levy said new is not necessarily a bad thing and certainly hasn’t kept the team from succeeding.
“We tell everyone, ‘Look, no one is young here,‘” she said. “We’ve all played the game for a long time. We’re just inexperienced playing together.
“Each game gives us an opportunity to build experience in playing with each other and finding who’s capable of doing what.”
The freshman class, which was ranked the best in the country, has continued to prove how well it fits in and what it is capable of.
Freshman Sydney Holman, who has already been one of the team’s leading scorers this season, showcased another impressive element of her play by contributing a school record-tying six assists Saturday.
“We knew (Holman) is a great feeder,” Levy said. “She has great vision on the field. It just adds a whole other element to our offense.”
On the other end of four of Holman’s assists was senior Taylor George, who used the freshman’s feeds on her way to a career-high five-goal game.
Another freshman, midfielder Maggie Bill, has scored in each of the team’s four games after playing for the school’s women’s soccer program in the fall.
Levy said she’s not surprised that the freshmen have fit in so well and that unselfishness and encouragement from upperclassmen like George and fellow senior attacker Abbey Friend has helped them along the way.
“We mostly just try to make sure (the freshmen) feel confident in that they’re a part of the team,” George said. “They love lacrosse, they love coming out and doing extra work, and they love practice. We just try to build them up and let them know that they’re valuable.”
But the wins and the high level of play aren’t the only indications that the team’s veterans are succeeding in initiating the newcomers.
Just ask the freshmen how they like their new teammates.
“They’re the best,” Holman quickly replied with a smile. “The chemistry on the team is amazing, and we’re all best friends and act like sisters.”
And the connection is not restricted to just the time on the field.
“The freshmen are very creative and high-level prankers,” George added. “They’ll come over to our house and rearrange our furniture or something.
“So we have a kind of prank battle going with them, which is a lot of fun, and it fosters a good relationship between our two classes.”
For the old and the new, continuing to grow and foster that relationship may be key in blazing toward another championship.
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