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'Love what we did offensively': UNC women's lacrosse bests Duke with 19-goal outburst

Ally Mastroianni and Gianna Bowe Duke Women's Lax
UNC midfielders, Ally Mastroianni (12) and Gianna Bowe (21), attempt to regain possession of the ball from Duke midfielder, Catriona Barry (19). No.3 UNC defeated No.13 Duke 19-5 on Saturday, April 20, 2019 at Koskinen Stadium at Duke University. UNC will enter the upcoming ACC Tournament as a No.2 seed.

DURHAM – Jenny Levy thought the third-ranked North Carolina women’s lacrosse team played its best offensive game all season long Saturday night. And yet the Tar Heels coach wasn’t completely satisfied with what she saw. 

“I thought we didn’t finish as well as we’d like to, but credit to Duke’s goalie,” Levy said. 

Finishing aside, the Tar Heels still managed to match their highest offensive output of conference play in a 19-5 win at rival No. 13 Duke in the regular-season finale Saturday night. That Levy thought her team left a few on the board speaks to how well UNC (12-3, 5-2 ACC) is playing at the moment. 

With the win, UNC earned the No. 2 seed and will take on No. 7 seed Virginia Tech in the quarterfinals of the upcoming ACC Tournament, which opens Wednesday in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, home of the nation’s top-ranked team, Boston College. The Eagles will surely be the favorites, especially on their home turf. But one seed behind them is a UNC group that believes it’s getting better day by day, peaking at the right time. 

There was ample evidence of that Saturday night, as the Tar Heels were dominant in nearly every facet of the game. They peppered the Blue Devils with 29 shots on goal, were successful on every clear attempt (20 of 20) and coaxed Duke into 20 turnovers, three more than the amount of shots the Blue Devils recorded (17). 

“It went awesome,” UNC sophomore attacker Jamie Ortega said. “This is a rival that’s huge within our school, and it’s just such an awesome game; it’s great competition. I think we started with great energy.” 

Ortega led the way with a six-goal, two-assist performance that came one week after she recorded just one shot in UNC’s win against Syracuse. On that day, she was face-guarded from start to finish, her mere presence making an impact and opening up opportunities for her teammates. Against Duke, Ortega’s impact showed up on the box score. But she wasn’t the only story of the night. 

Junior attacker Olivia Ferrucci matched a career high with five goals, and junior attacker Katie Hoeg’s five-assist performance gave her 50 on the season, tying the UNC single-season record she set last year. 

The Tar Heels scored goals in numerous fashions: in transition, like the time just over midway through the first half when Ortega forced a turnover, started the fastbreak and finished a give-and-go with Hoeg from close range; in the set offense, including another Hoeg-to-Ortega connection that caused trouble for the Blue Devils; and on free-position shots, as senior midfielder Kara Klages and sophomore midfielder Ally Mastroianni each did in two-goal performances. 

“Love what we did offensively,” Levy said. “I thought we were supper aggressive and had a nice blend of one-on-one stuff and feeds.”

A week ago against Syracuse, the Orange based their game plan on making Ortega a non-factor, and her teammates stepped up. The reigning National Freshman of the Year had a lot more room to maneuver against the Blue Devils. 

“It was a lot better,” she said. And she took advantage, but the Tar Heels were about more than one player on offense, with five multi-goal performances. 

“I think everybody is such a huge threat on our offense, and we’re finally building up this chemistry since we started in the fall,” Ortega said. 

But equally important to UNC’s recent surge has been its defense. After Saturday’s win, the Tar Heels have now won four of their last five contests. In that stretch, opponents are averaging only six goals per game, with starting goalie Taylor Moreno making 47 saves. 

Duke entered with the 10th-best scoring offense in the country (15.47 goals per game) in large part because of sophomore attacker Charlotte North and her 4.47 goals per game average, the second-highest in the nation. 

But Duke’s five goals were a season low, two under its previous low of seven. Much of that had to do with North taking just five shots and scoring only once, mostly uninvolved in the offense. 

“It felt like I was chasing her around the whole game,” UNC sophomore defender Emma Trenchard said. 

That’s exactly what the UNC coaching staff wanted Trenchard to do – and it worked. 

“I wasn’t in a full face-guard, but I was definitely stretching her a little bit, trying to make her job more difficult,” said Trenchard, who also recorded her first career assist. 

Mission accomplished. 

With her offense becoming tougher to stop and her defense remaining stout, Levy is excited for the postseason. 

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“We’re starting to hit some nice, full gears,” Levy said. “I thought the team looked great tonight physically – real fast, very strong.”

@Brennan_Doherty

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com