Gab Major, junior forward: After scoring five goals as a first-year, Major broke out in 2015, leading the team with 45 points. After losing forward Casey Di Nardo to graduation, Coach Karen Shelton will count on Major to continue producing goals for the Tar Heels.
Emma Bozek, redshirt senior midfielder/forward: Bozek missed the 2015 season when her lung collapsed after surgery to treat a genetic condition. After taking a medical redshirt, the preseason All-ACC player hopes to return to her stellar 2014 form, when she led the team with 16 goals and tied for the lead in assists with 10.
Shannon Johnson, senior goalkeeper: Johnson started all 24 games for the Tar Heels a season ago, allowing an average of 1.24 goals per 70 minutes in 2015. UNC will need her to continue to play at a high level, with other goalkeepers on the roster unproven at the collegiate level.
When is their biggest game?
Syracuse travels to Chapel Hill on Sept. 23, a date the Tar Heels must have circled in red for months.
UNC lost 4-2 to the Orange in the 2015 national championship after splitting its two games against Syracuse that season — losing 4-2 on the road in the regular season and winning 2-1 in overtime in the ACC Championship. Syracuse also knocked UNC out of the 2014 NCAA tournament, when the Orange won 3-2 after double overtime in a penalty shootout in the national semifinal.
What is their biggest weakness?
UNC lost much of its attacking power, with recent graduates Nina Notman, Emily Wold and Di Nardo combining for 39 goals and 22 assists in 2015.
While the return of Bozek will help replace some of that production, other players will have to step up their scoring in the midfield and forward positions.
Why could they win it all?
With its talent, UNC enters every season with the chance to win it all.
The Tar Heels were one game away from claiming their seventh national title. With much of the offense and defense back, they should be able to make another run.
If her team continues to improve every day, Shelton said, it’ll be right there competing at the end.
And if the Tar Heels make it that far, one has to like their chances.