While the No. 5 North Carolina women’s lacrosse team is heading into the final stretch of the regular season, the underclassmen are beginning to really shine in the spotlight.
This strong level of play was evident in UNC’s convincing 16-6 victory over Louisville on Saturday afternoon. First-year Jamie Ortega and sophomore Katie Hoeg stole the show for the Tar Heels — combining for eight goals and five assists in a cold and rainy contest in Kenan Stadium.
Now having won six out of its last seven games, including four against ranked opponents during span, UNC is getting hot at the right time.
“I like where we are right now,” head coach Jenny Levy said. “We obviously play a very competitive schedule, and it challenges us to get better. So with 12 games under our belt, we have a better idea of our strengths and weaknesses. They have really come together nicely.”
Despite the obstacles that commonly present themselves while playing on a wet surface, UNC (9-3, 4-1 ACC) was able to persevere through the elements, ultimately dominating Louisville (6-8, 0-5 ACC) in virtually every statistical category.
The teams combined for 41 turnovers, but North Carolina still established an offensive rhythm. The Tar Heels collected more ground balls (26 to 18); secured more draw controls (16 to 8); and outshot the Cardinals (38 to 20 in total shots; 26 to 12 in shots on goal). UNC controlled the pace of the game from the start.
Ortega and Hoeg’s performances were a big reason for this offensive supremacy, primarily from quick ball movement and efficiency around the goal.
“They’ve got great chemistry,” Levy said of her two talented underclassmen. “Both are high IQ players as well as great finishers. Jamie and Katie take a lot of pressure off of Marie (McCool) and Maggie (Bill). They have really increased their level of play since the beginning of the season, and we need that to continue.”
Since arriving to UNC as the top first-year attacker in the nation, Ortega has established an almost immediate impact on the field. She has found a groove within the offense this season, earning National Player of the Week honors for her efforts in UNC’s close wins over ranked ACC opponents Virginia Tech and Notre Dame.