The results are decent so far — wins over then-No. 7 Northwestern and then-No. 4 Florida — but a tough road loss to the defending national champion, No. 1 Maryland, in February proved there was still work to be done.
The next test was No. 8 Virginia (4-4, 0-2), the same team that knocked UNC out of the NCAA Tournament in 2014.
The Tar Heels (8-1, 1-0) were up for the challenge. UNC defeated Virginia 10-7 to open Spring Break and used the momentum to defeat Albany 10-6 Friday and Towson 15-14 Sunday in double overtime.
“I thought it was a good match,” said sophomore attacker Molly Hendrick on the victory over the Cavaliers. “It wasn’t our cleanest, but we came out from the start and dug deep.”
In the match against Virginia, UNC opened with a goal from senior midfielder Brittney Coppa, but Virginia answered right back almost two minutes later. But the 1-1 tie would be broken by three straight goals from UNC — the Cavaliers faced at least a two goal deficit for the rest of the game.
Late in the second half, Virginia scored two goals in 31 seconds to cut the lead to 10-7 with 5:41 left. But the Tar Heels won the resulting draw and held the ball, draining the clock until it hit zero.
After she allowed the two quick goals, junior goalkeeper Megan Ward’s confidence never wavered because the game plan was clear.
“I knew that our attack was going to get it and hold it and take care of the ball,” Ward said. “And they did their job.”
Hendrick led the way with three goals, with sophomore midfielder Maggie Bill and junior attacker Sammy Jo Tracy scoring two each.
The win over Virginia marked the Tar Heels’ 10th consecutive victory in an ACC home opener. UNC has now beaten the Cavaliers in 11 of the last 12 meetings.
Against Albany, the Tar Heels had little trouble. UNC outshot Albany 28 to 17 and controlled 13 of the 18 draw controls.
But UNC had its struggles against Towson. The Tar Heels led Towson 9-4 10 minutes into the second half, but allowed the Tigers to go on a 7-1 run to take an 11-10 lead over the course of eight minutes. UNC fought back though to tie the game three more times, including the game winner by Tracy in double overtime, when the Tar Heels had just nine turnovers and forced 15 Towson miscues.
The Tar Heels are now on a five-game win streak. The team will next play No. 3 Boston College on Saturday at home. With more ranked opponents and tests looming ahead, Coach Jenny Levy believes her team is in a position to succeed.
“I like where we are right now,” Levy said. “If we keep working like we’re working, good things will happen for us the next time we come out.
“Constantly working to be better is what we’re looking for, and I think we’re doing a pretty good job of that.”