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The Daily Tar Heel

North Carolina women's lacrosse faces Navy in NCAA quarterfinals at home

Navy's Julia Collins in action. Photo courtesy of Naval Academy Sports Information

Navy's Julia Collins in action. Photo courtesy of Naval Academy Sports Information

With a spot in the Final Four on the line, it’s time for some lacrosse at Fetzer Field.

The North Carolina women’s lacrosse team takes on Navy on Saturday at 1 p.m. in an NCAA Tournament quarterfinal matchup. Here’s everything to know about the Tar Heels’ final home game of the year as their quest for a national-championship repeat continues.

Postseason prowess

No. 2 overall seed UNC is no stranger to NCAA Tournament. In fact, the two are like best friends.

Since its creation in 1996, the team has only missed the tournament twice in 22 years, and head coach Jenny Levy has lead it to 13 consecutive appearances. When UNC gets in, early-round exits are rare.

Since 2009, North Carolina is 21-9 in tournament play. The accolades from those eight years alone look like those from a school’s all-time record book — six Final Four trips, four championship game appearances and two national titles, in 2013 and 2016.

The stats don’t bode well for Navy either. UNC is 21-2 in its last 21 tournament home games and leads the all-time series against Navy, 2-0. Both of those wins — in 2010 and 2012 — came in Chapel Hill during NCAA play.

Anchors aweigh!

Navy enters Saturday’s game with an incredible amount of momentum. Yes, the 17-4 Midshipmen are an unseeded team. But they are in no way playing like one.

On April 12, the Annapolis, Md., team lost an away game against Virginia. It hasn’t seen another loss since.

The Midshipmen finished their regular season with four consecutive wins and then secured a spot in the tournament by winning the Patriot League Championship — their fifth all-time.

And in the NCAA Tournament, they’ve been even more impressive. Navy walked into the home of No. 7-seeded Pennsylvania and came away with an 11-10 first-round win, holding its opponent scoreless in the last 3:36 as Penn looked for an equalizer.

The win against Penn was the first against a ranked opponent in Navy’s NCAA Tournament history. As you can see, the Midshipmen are pretty new to this.

Next up was a 23-goal explosion in a win over Massachusetts, another unseeded team. Five players had hat tricks, led by junior Julia Collins, who tied a school record with eight goals. Collins has 68 goals this season — she’s neck-and-neck with North Carolina’s goal leader Molly Hendrick (69).

And it wasn’t just flashy goals that gave Navy an Elite Eight matchup with UNC. The Midshipmen forced 13 turnovers against Massachusetts. Junior Blake Smith caused three of those, which gave her the school record for most turnovers forced in a season (34).

One other tidbit: Navy’s head coach, Cindy Timchal, is the all-time winningest coach in NCAA history with 490 victories.

Tar Heels, tried and true

Navy’s run to the Elite Eight is impressive. But North Carolina is one of the few teams in women’s college lacrosse that doesn’t need to be too worried.

All season long, teams have been hitting UNC with their best shots — their “let’s knock off the defending champions” attempts. And North Carolina's taken every blow and hit back harder.

The Tar Heels have scored double-digit goals in every game this season. When UNC lost its first game of the season to 2016 title foe Maryland, it promptly responded by winning its next nine games, six of which came against ranked teams.

And after North Carolina lost to Syracuse on senior day and ended its 18-game ACC winning streak, a blowout of Duke and a dominant three-game run to win a second consecutive ACC tournament title followed.

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UNC earned a first-round bye and was well rested and ready when Virginia came to Fetzer Field on May 14. The Tar Heels’ 23-12 win was a thing of beauty, and it broke a school record for the most goals scored in an NCAA tournament game.

Simply put, this team is really, really good. And it's ready for whatever Navy throws at it.