The North Carolina women’s lacrosse team was on a roll. Six games into the season the team had picked up six wins, outscoring its opponents by a combined score of 117-40.
The Tar Heels picked up even more momentum in their seventh game of the season, a closely-contested 20-18 victory over No. 6 Northwestern.
That was when senior attacker Katie Hoeg become UNC’s all-time points holder, recording four goals and four assists to bring her career point total to 261.
But on March 17, the Tar Heels found out that their win over the Wildcats would be their last game of the season. The UNC and the ACC announced all spring sports competition would be canceled amid the outbreak of COVID-19.
“It was hard for everybody. We’re certainly not alone in the disappointment,” head coach Jenny Levy said. “But I think we also — just like everybody else — understand the seriousness of the matter, and the implications it has worldwide.”
Senior defender Maddie Hoffer said that although the news wasn’t surprising, it was still hard to take.
“We weren’t entirely blindsided, because other conferences had canceled their season prior to the NCAA making that announcement,” Hoffer said. “But it still just didn’t seem like it was really happening.”
Hoffer said the news was tough to take because of how well the team had started the season. At 7-0 and 2-0 in the ACC, UNC finished the very short season No. 1 in the IWLCA, collecting all 25 first-place votes.
“It did make it worse on some level because we really had high hopes for how the season was going,” Hoffer said. “We had big plans for this season and we were getting better and better each game and at each practice. And it was fun and we really were enjoying each other’s company.”
Senior midfielder Caroline Wakefield said that the hardest part of the news was knowing that she and her teammates’ time together would be getting cut short.
“We all just have so much love and passion for the game, so it’s something that’s so hard to let go,” Wakefield said. “We had worked so hard to build up the team chemistry and build relationships, so for that to be taken away is hard.”
There was one bright spot amid the cancellation of North Carolina’s 2020 season: The NCAA announced that it would vote Monday whether athletes in spring sports would be granted an extra year of eligibility.
Levy said that the team does not know for sure if any seniors will use the extra year of eligibility if it's given, as the team is still waiting for the NCAA and UNC to determine how the extra year will be managed financially.
“Katie Hoeg, Catie Woodruff and Caroline Wakefield are three (senior) starters who indicated pretty much immediately to me that if they were given an extra year of eligibility that they would take it,” Levy said. “And then I have seniors that are graduating, they’ve got jobs lined up, and they’ve finished their four-year degree, and they’re ready to move on.”
Wakefield is in a different position than a lot of her fellow seniors. In the 2018 season, she redshirted, meaning the 2020 season was already her fifth year on the team. Still, she sees the chance to compete for a national championship — and get more time with her teammates — as worth it.
“I think a sixth year is a huge commitment,” Wakefield said. “But I know that it would be worth it to come back just to be a part of this team again.”
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