Vengeance comes early for head coach Jenny Levy's North Carolina women's lacrosse team.
For the fifth year in a row, UNC starts its season against James Madison. Between this past season’s opener and this one, the Tar Heels suffered a season-ending loss just one game short of the national championship — at the hands of the Dukes.
“Over the past five years we’ve opened up with JMU, so it’s business as usual as far as opening up the season with a really good team,” Levy said. “But we are 0-2 against them the past two times we played them … the loss last year left an impression on us.”
On Feb. 9, UNC kicks off its campaign with a chance to right the wrongs that ended its season in the semifinals this past spring. Here is how the No. 3 team in the country is shaping up for 2019 with a tough schedule that includes 10 of the top 25 teams in 15 games.
The same players who walked off the field in Stony Brook, N.Y., after the semifinal loss will walk back onto it in Chapel Hill as the new leaders of the team. UNC returns nine starters for 2019. The six seniors from last year’s team leave a hole, but Levy is confident she has the personnel to fill it.
In the attacking front, UNC graduated Ela Hazar, who was one of four Tar Heels to contribute more than 80 points this past season. Lucky for the Tar Heels, their top two point contributors return in the form of key distributor junior Katie Hoeg and finesse scorer Jamie Ortega, a sophomore. The two complemented each other, racking up 89 and 86 points a piece this past year. Hoeg did it on 50 assists and 39 goals, and Ortega on 70 goals and 16 assists.
Behind them, Levy highlighted vocal leadership from midfielder Gianna Bowe and defender Charlotte Sofield. Having strong guidance in every phase of the game will be a surefire way to get the most out of the newcomers to the program as quickly as possible.