How do they play?
A season ago, UNC shocked Maryland in the NCAA title game with a 13-7 upset — the Terrapins’ biggest margin of defeat since 2007.
The top-ranked Tar Heels feature a lightning-fast attack — one that was the fifth-highest scoring offense in the nation last year. North Carolina returns nine of its top 11 scorers, including senior Molly Hendrick, who led UNC in goals and points in 2016.
The back line is directed by two-time National Goalie of the Year Caylee Waters. North Carolina stymied foes with the ninth-highest save percentage in the nation in 2016.
Who stands out?
The Tar Heels feature a deep roster with seven preseason All-Americans — including junior Maggie Bill, who last played in UNC’s 2015 title loss to Maryland before redshirting last season. Bill and senior Sydney Holman, who hasn’t played since March, rejoin the lineup as fresh additions with veteran experience.
When’s their best game?
North Carolina faces an early test on Feb. 25, when it travels to College Park for a rematch with No. 2 Maryland. While the season won’t be decided in nonconference play, the national title rematch could be the highlight of the entire women’s lacrosse season.
With seven nationally-ranked teams in the conference, ACC wins are never easy to come by. However, the Tar Heels face a unique threat in their regular-season finale, an Apr. 22 showdown in Durham with No. 10 Duke.
What’s their weakness?
The Tar Heels return depth and experience across the field, but their biggest weakness might be expectation.
With the rest of the nation coming for the throne, this team must respond to the pressure of defending a title.
Why could they win it all?
Last season’s team featured a blend of skill and athleticism that won 17 straight games for a national title.
But the Tar Heels might be even better this season.
They bring back a loaded lineup of veterans with another offseason of training under head coach Jenny Levy. Factor in the crop of new talent and the reintroduction of players like Bill and Holman, and North Carolina has the goods to back lofty aspirations for a trip to this year’s Final Four in Foxborough, Ma.