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‘The type of person I want to be around’: Katie Hoeg drives UNC women's lacrosse

Katie Hoeg feature
UNC women's lacrosse junior Katie Hoeg (8) stands in the new lacrosse/soccer stadium on Thursday, April 18, 2019. Hoeg has been playing lacrosse since she was in second grade.

Katie Hoeg examined the Duke defense at the top of the circle on Sunday before delivering a pinpoint pass to her teammate in a tight spot that led to a goal.

That play has become a common one over the last three seasons for the North Carolina women’s lacrosse team. Hoeg, the team’s assist leader for the second straight year, has earned national recognition for her uncanny ability to distribute the ball.

But it wasn’t always that way. 

Before the success, she was just a kid in Mattituck, N.Y., trying to find a sport she loved.

Eventually, when she reached middle school, she discovered that sport was lacrosse.

“Somewhere around sixth grade, I realized lacrosse is my favorite sport,” Hoeg said. “And that’s when I had this dream of going to college to play lacrosse and trying to put all my energy and really dedicate myself to the sport.”

From then on, Hoeg’s lacrosse career took off and her work ethic and family would drive her to the success she’s had — from being ranked the No. 6 recruit in the country according to Inside Lacrosse to earning second-team All-America honors from IL Women and breaking UNC’s school record for points as a sophomore.

‘They would not let me be mediocre’

The Northeast is a lacrosse hotbed, with 13 of UNC’s players hailing from either New York or New Jersey. Plenty of children grow up on Hoeg’s home of Long Island dreaming of playing college lacrosse, and she was one of them.

In elementary school, she began to play many different sports and she started playing lacrosse in the second grade. 

“When I was about in second grade, my dad thought it would be a good opportunity for me,” Hoeg said. “Because he heard that it was a great opportunity for girls in sports if they wanted to go to college or go to good schools.”

It didn’t take long for her parents to see her potential.

“They knew they would not let me be mediocre,” Hoeg said. “That was not really an option.”

Her siblings wouldn’t let Katie be mediocre, either. She often competed with her three younger siblings in their backyard. Her most competitive games would come against her brother, who was one year younger than her.

That is, until he hit a growth spurt.

“Now he’s six inches taller than me,” Hoeg said. “But when we were the same height, we were viewed as equal competitors.”

Despite her hours of playing lacrosse in the backyard as well as on organized teams, her parents couldn’t recall a defining moment when they realized she was a special player.

“I don’t think there was any one moment,” James Hoeg said. “I think it’s a collection of things over the years, she would constantly be proving herself.”

‘My team was my family’

Katie’s desire paid off, as she made Mattituck Jr. Sr. High School’s varsity lacrosse team in the seventh grade. Little did Katie and her siblings know, they would collectively change the culture of the program and make “a significant difference.”

“When I was in the seventh grade, my team won one game,” Katie Hoeg said. 

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By her senior year, the team won 12 of 17 games. The difference was largely attributed to the Hoeg family as a whole, with both of Katie’s sisters playing with her for her junior and senior seasons.

“Number one, being able to go to one field to watch them all play was great,” James Hoeg said. 

The sisters would often fill up box scores with connections of Hoeg-to-Hoeg-to-Hoeg on scoring plays.

“By having them on the team, not only did it make our team better, but it just made me enjoy the sport so much more,” Katie Hoeg said. “Everyone says that your team is your family but, like legit, my team was my family.”

By the end of Katie’s high school career, not only was her team winning, but she was receiving all sorts of accolades. She racked up more than 500 points in her six years playing on the varsity team and was named an Under Armour All-American in 2016.

Katie scored three goals and recorded two assists in the Under Armour All-American Game, earning MVP honors along the way.

“When she made these top-level all-star teams from Long Island,” James Hoeg said, “you kind of knew she was on her way.”

In addition to her lacrosse accomplishments, Katie was named the valedictorian of her graduating class.

With Katie being both a successful student and athlete, plenty of college coaches were itching to get her to play for them. She visited a number of schools but her parents wouldn’t talk to her about them. They wanted to give the visits some time to sink in because they knew some kids get overwhelmed by the recruitment process.

Katie has ties to Virginia, as her dad wrestled there, but when she visited Chapel Hill, something clicked.

“I don’t know if I should say this,” James Hoeg said. “But we had gone to Duke and UNC for kind of back-to-back days and when I saw her after watching the practice at UNC, I called my wife and I said, ‘It’s done.’”

Katie was attracted to the team and the culture of UNC. She saw it as an opportunity to get a strong education and pursue her ultimate goal — winning a national championship. 

‘That’s the type of person I want to be around’

In the Duke game on Saturday, Katie did what she does best, finding teammates and recording five assists in front of her family, who gathered for a reunion of sorts in Durham. It is typical for her parents to make the 10-hour drive from Long Island to see Katie play, but it is rare for her siblings to make the journey.

“She’s so close with her sisters and her brother,” Karen Hoeg said. “This past weekend, it was so nice that everybody was able to get down and be together.”

Katie’s ability as a playmaker has become her defining trait on the field as a Tar Heel.

“Katie is a very unselfish player,” head coach Jenny Levy said. “I think sometimes we’d like her to be a little more selfish, but she’s patient and the team knows and trusts her, that she’s looking for the best opportunity. She’s just a key kid for us on a day-in, day-out basis with her work ethic and her passion for the game.”

That hard work has culminated in Katie recording back-to-back seasons with 50 assists. That number led her to gaining first-team All-America status in her first season as a full-time starter.

Her most frequent connection is with her fellow attacker and Long Island native, sophomore Jamie Ortega. The two have developed a strong rapport from all of their years playing together. Ortega has always looked up to Katie and said she was one of the reasons that UNC became her top option for college.

“I think that her committing here showed me that they look for this type of person,” Ortega said. “And that’s the type of person I want to be around and play with as a teammate.”

Katie’s ability to attract those around her did not work, however, when her two sisters were going through the recruiting process. Both Riley, a senior in high school, and Mackenzie, a junior, have committed to play lacrosse at Virginia.

Next year, the Hoeg family will have another opportunity to get together at the lacrosse field when UNC faces Virginia and the sisters are playing against each other once again.

“It will be interesting,” James Hoeg said. “It goes back to, you know, you’re just obviously happy to watch them be happy out there playing. The outcome isn't always the biggest thing to us.”

In the meantime, Katie will look to continue being a leader for UNC and chase her childhood dream of winning a national championship.


@DTHSports |