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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC women's lacrosse locks up No. 2 seed in ACC Tournament with 19-5 win over Duke

Jamie Ortega Boston College

 Sophomore attacker Jamie Ortega (3) makes a shot on goal against Boston College at the UNC Lacrosse Stadium on Saturday, March 23, 2019. Boston College defeated UNC 14-8.  

DURHAM –The third-ranked North Carolina women’s lacrosse team went into Saturday’s season finale with a couple of things on the line: a lengthy winning streak against its biggest rival and the No. 2 seed in the upcoming ACC Tournament. 

The Tar Heels delivered on both fronts with a 19-5 victory over Duke at Koskinen Stadium, their ninth straight against the Blue Devils, one that gave them the tiebreaker over Notre Dame and Syracuse for the No. 2 seed in the ACC Tournament, which begins Wednesday. 

The Tar Heels (12-3, 5-2 ACC), Orange and Fighting Irish each went 5-2 in conference play and each team went 1-1 against one another. Additionally, the three teams all had identical ACC records against the remainder of the league. 

By virtue of goal differential in games involving UNC, Notre Dame and Syracuse, the Tar Heels earned the No. 2 seed and will face No. 7 seed Virginia Tech in Chestnut Hills, Mass., on Wednesday in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament. 

The Tar Heels enter the postseason having won four of their last five, and it was business as usual Saturday night, with sophomore attacker Jamie Ortega leading the way with a six-goal performance one week after taking just one shot against Syracuse. 

What happened?

UNC made sure Duke wouldn’t feed off senior night emotions and instead were the aggressors early on. The Tar Heels scored the game’s first two goals thanks to Ortega and junior attacker Olivia Ferrucci. 

After the Blue Devils’ Olivia Jenner made it 2-1, the Tar Heels responded through senior midfielder Kara Klages, who scored twice in 35 seconds. Klages now has five goals in her last two games, after scoring three times in a win over Syracuse last week. 

Initially, the Blue Devils showed some resolve and cut UNC’s lead to one, 4-3, as Jenner tacked on a second. Sophomore attacker Charlotte North, who entered with the second-best goals per game average in the country (4.47), then scored on a free-position shot. 

However, that sequence was a minor blip on the radar for an otherwise stout half for the UNC defense. Tar Heel goalie Taylor Moreno was solid between the pipes and her defenders rarely put her in vulnerable situations. 

Entering the game, the player to watch from Duke was certainly North, whose 5.87 points per game average ranked fifth nationally. The Tar Heels gave the responsibility of slowing down North to sophomore defender Emma Trenchard, who kept the Blue Devils’ biggest weapon quiet. 

Trenchard set the tone early, forcing a turnover less than four minutes into the game. Helping on the UNC defense was junior midfielder Caroline Wakefield, who caused three turnovers. 

After North’s lone goal, UNC ended the first half on a 5-0 run, keeping the Blue Devils scoreless in the final 15-plus minutes before halftime. 

Ortega, the National Freshman of the Year last season, made the most of the freedom she was provided after being closely guarded by Syracuse last week. 

In a play that summed up the ability of UNC’s two go-to playmakers, Ortega forced a turnover in the midfield, started a fastbreak and finished a give-and-go with junior attacker Katie Hoeg from close range to make it 6-3. 

Minutes later, with UNC up by four, the Hoeg-to-Ortega connection caused trouble for the Blue Devils again, this time out of the set offense. The patient and tall Hoeg surveyed the defense, dumped a pass into Ortega after the sophomore cut into the slot. Immediately surrounded by multiple defenders, Ortega absorbed contact, drew a foul and scored anyway for her fourth of the night. 

After taking a 9-3 lead into the break, the Tar Heels didn’t let up at the beginning of the second half. Goals by Hoeg and Ferrucci made it an eight-goal game, and the Blue Devils never looked capable of fashioning a comeback attempt. 

With a goal with 17:36 remaining in the second half, Ferrucci set a new personal best with five to her name, this one putting the Tar Heels up 15-4. Setting up the goal was Trenchard, who complemented her good defensive performance with the first assist of her career. 

Comfortably ahead, the Tar Heels ended with a 4-1 run from that point on. 

Who stood out?

Ortega was back to being her brilliant self after being smothered by the Orange a weekend ago. She still made an impact in that win by drawing that much attention, but this time her impact was certainly measurable on the box score. 

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Meanwhile, Ferrucci’s career night served as a reminder that she – like Tayler Warehime and Klages – is a player who could play a big role offensively for the Tar Heels as the postseason approaches. 

It was just another night at the office for Hoeg, whose five-assist performance gave her 50 on the season, tying the UNC single-season record she set last year. 

When was it decided?

The goals by Hoeg and Ferrucci to start the second half took the wind out of Duke’s sails and the Tar Heels were in cruise control from that point on. 

Why does matter?

The Tar Heels got the satisfaction that comes with beating a rival and secured the No. 2 seed in the ACC Tournament. In doing both those things, head coach Jenny Levy’s team turned in a complete performance.  

When do they play next?

UNC plays Wednesday in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament in Chestnut Hills, Mass. The Tar Heels, who will be the No. 2 seed in the competition, play Virginia Tech, the No. 7 seed, in a rematch of a March 27 contest.

UNC won last year’s ACC Tournament in Durham, topping Boston College in the championship game. 

@Brennan_Doherty

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com