It was a record-breaking day for the North Carolina women's lacrosse team in its 21-12 victory over Syracuse on Thursday night.
Four separate ACC Tournament records were either tied or broken as UNC marched to a dominant victory. First-year Jamie Ortega tied the ACC quarterfinal record for most goals in a game with six and seniors Ela Hazar and Katie Hoeg each tied the ACC quarterfinal record for points in a game with seven apiece. As a team the Tar Heels set a new program record for goals in an ACC Tournament game, as well as tying the record for goals scored in a tournament contest by any ACC team.
“I really think we stepped up,” Ortega said. “Just coming out fast and strong because we knew Cuse was going to be a different team from when we played them last time, and that we can’t just expect them to not be as good or aggressive.”
The No. 5 Tar Heels (14-3, 6-1 ACC) historic day started off with a remarkably fast start. The team had a few mishaps in the first minute of the game, but were able to recover and score its first goal just 80 seconds into the contest.
Once the initial goal was scored, the floodgates opened and UNC jumped out to an 11-2 lead with 14 minutes still to play in the first half.
“I really like our energy,” head coach Jenny Levy said. “I like our focus, and I like the fact that we’re trusting each other on the field. We have a lot of interchangeable parts.”
North Carolina struggled before halftime as Syracuse went on a 4-3 run to narrow the Tar Heel lead to 14-6 at the break.
In the second half, the scoring would slow down. UNC scored half as many goals in the final 30 minutes as it did in the first, but it was still more than enough to win as the team held on for the 21-12 victory.
“Obviously, we came out really strong,” Hazar said. “For next game, we have to play a full 60 minutes. There were some bumps here and there, but I feel pretty good where we are as a team.”
Also of note, the Tar Heels have now scored at least 20 goals in four consecutive games. If you ask Hazar, the key to this offensive explosion is trust.
“I think just everyone trusting each other,” Hazar said. “It’s something that we’ve worked on all season, and you can’t force something like that. So I’m glad it’s coming together right about now.”
The trust between Hazar and Ortega has been a major factor for the the offense. Ortega is playing at the collegiate level for the first time. However, she has been able to produce at a high clip, having scored 49 goals on the year coming into Friday's semifinal against Virginia Tech. She credits some of that success to Hazar’s leadership.
“She’s helped me a lot, actually,” Ortega said. “I’m not used to playing down below and X, but she makes it a lot easier. She always works with me and gives advice what to do, so I always feel comfortable when she’s there with me.”
On Friday, UNC faced off against No. 12 Virginia Tech in the ACC Tournament semifinals. This time around, the offense was not quite as prolific. The UNC offense was only able to muster 14 goals, but the defense held up, holding the Hokies to eight in the 14-8 win.
The Tar Heels advanced to the ACC Championship on Sunday afternoon against top-seeded Boston College with an opportunity to win a third consecutive conference title.
“It’s been pretty good,” Ortega said about the ACC Tournament thus far. “I guess just being excited and having butterflies makes you think about why you’re here. You’re here to win the championship, not just to play games.”
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