The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday December 3rd

Women's lacrosse team excels at clearing

In lacrosse, goals get the headlines.

Dramatic saves by goalies or defenders are also recognized as important, game-changing plays.

But in the midst of all the flashy goals and strong defensive stands, another play goes largely unnoticed, but is exceedingly important.

That play, is called the clear.

And for the No. 1 North Carolina women’s lacrosse team , the clear has been a focus all season on the team's way to a 11-0, 4-0 ACC record, including its 21-9 thrashing of Virginia Tech on Wednesday night.

A clear is simply moving the ball from a team’s defensive third of the field into its offensive third of the field after recording a defensive stop via a save by the goalie or a forced turnover from a defender.

Seems simple, but it can be incredibly difficult and can often be the difference between winning and losing.

“The clear is huge,” said senior attacker Taylor George.

“Defensive stops are not all that important if you can’t get the ball into the offensive end, and it's something we work a lot on in practice, and we really focus a lot on it in games. The fact that we’re able to clear so efficiently is a huge, huge strength that we have.”

On Wednesday, the Tar Heels were at their very best when it came to clearing the ball.

UNC converted all nine of its opportunities to clear the ball following a defensive stand, which led to many of its 21 goals.

The Tar Heels defenders, led by pre-season All-Americans Sloane Serpe and Margaret Corzel,  are key to securing a successful clear. Sometimes, after stealing the ball, Serpe or Corzel will look to run the length of the field and clear the ball all by themselves.

But more often than not, freshman midfielder Maggie Bill said that her team utilizes its teamwork and speed in order to quickly transition the ball from offense to defense. 

“It can’t be done without a whole team effort,” she said. “For the midfielders, we work on spacing out and really work on moving the ball quickly. But the defenders do an awesome job of running the ball up when we (the midfielders) aren’t able to get open.”

And when the Tar Heels aren’t working on clearing the ball themselves, they are flying around the field making sure their opponent cannot mirror their success.

While UNC was perfect in their clearing opportunities, the Hokies converted just 11 of their 17 chances.

Coach Jenny Levy has a simple explanation for her team’s scrappy attitude toward disrupting their opponents' clears.

“It’s all about speed,” Levy said. “A lot of that is effort and having pride in trying to get the ball back. And I think that can be intimidating, when someone doesn’t give up and is relentless.”

The Tar Heels have certainly been relentless all season, converting 84.6 percent of their clears on the season compared to a 67.1 percent clip for their opponents,  a trend, which, according to Levy, is here to stay.

“Our speed will stay, that’s something that doesn’t go away.”

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