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The Daily Tar Heel

Previewing the season for the No. 1 UNC women's lacrosse team

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UNC Junior attacker Taylor McDaniels (10) looks for scoring opportunities. The Tar Heels won 20-3 over Elon during the exhibition match on Feb. 1, 2020, at Dorrance Field.

After a semifinal loss in last year’s NCAA Tournament, the No. 1 North Carolina women’s lacrosse team will look to compete for a national championship yet again in 2020. 

UNC went into the 2019 NCAA Tournament on a six-game winning streak, including an ACC Championship win over Boston College, before the No. 3 seed Tar Heels dropped a heartbreaking double-overtime game in a Final Four rematch against the Eagles. 

With eight seniors returning and six Tar Heels slated as preseason All-Americans, North Carolina will look to turn a preseason No. 1 ranking from Inside Lacrosse into its third ever national championship and its first since 2016. 

The attack

Junior attacker Jamie Ortega posted a record-breaking offensive season for North Carolina last year, becoming the first Tar Heel to reach 100 points in a season and finishing with an incredible 81 goals and 31 assists. 

Ortega wasn't the only Tar Heel to put together a record breaking campaign last year — senior Katie Hoeg became the second UNC player to cross the 100-point mark in a season, finishing with 104 off of 31 goals and 73 assists. 

All three of North Carolina’s starting attackers started at least 14 games last year.  An extremely skilled and experienced UNC attack will be a constant threat for opponents all year, and could possibly make North Carolina’s offense one of the most productive in the country.

The midfield 

While North Carolina’s midfield is young, boasting only two upperclassmen projected to be starters, there is still plenty of talent to be found in the unit. 

The two juniors, Ally Mastroianni and Scottie Rose Growney, finished with 15 and 21 goals, respectively. This slots them in the top five of returning goal scorers for this talented group of Tar Heels. 

The midfield unit is also expected to welcome on first-years Livi Lawton and Emily Nalls into its starting lineup, both of whom were rated as five-star recruits entering Chapel Hill.

This mix of young talent and veteran leadership will be important for a unit that will play a key role in North Carolina’s success this season on both ends of the field. 

The defense

North Carolina’s defensive unit comes in as its most experienced, boasting two seniors and one junior, who have all started for UNC in the past. Junior Emma Trenchard was recently named a preseason All-American, and also returns as the team leader in ground ball recoveries with 24. 

The other two projected starters are seniors Caroline Wakefield and Catie Woodruff, who finished with 20 and 19 ground ball recoveries, respectively, last season. 

Depth should not be a problem for this unit, with eight returning players with experience as defenders at the collegiate level. Four-star recruit and North Carolina native Mason Paradine will also be expected to add depth to this defensive unit as a first-year.

In goal, North Carolina will have yet another preseason All-American in junior Taylor Moreno. Moreno is coming off of a season that saw her finish in the top 10 nationally in both save percentage and goals allowed average. With protection from a veteran defensive unit, Moreno should be primed to be one of the top goalkeepers in the country once again. 

The schedule

After an opening date slotted for Feb. 8 at James Madison, the Tar Heels will face a difficult schedule filled with five teams ranked in the preseason top-25. A Feb. 22 showdown against No. 2 Maryland, the reigning national champions, will prove to be a major early season test for the Tar Heels. 

North Carolina is going into the season favored to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament and will have plenty of opportunities to prove themselves as the nation's No. 1 team in the country.

@zachycrain

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@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com