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Analysis: How UNC women's lacrosse has relied on offense for a hot start in 2020


UNC Junior attacker Jamie Ortega (3) scans the field for scoring opportunities and finished the game with six goals. The Tar Heels won 20-3 over Elon during the exhibition match on Feb. 1, 2020, at Dorrance Field.

The top-ranked North Carolina women's lacrosse team seems to be on a mission this season after a devastating double overtime defeat against Boston College ended its season in the NCAA semifinal last May. Early in 2020, the team has left no doubt that it is the squad to beat in women’s collegiate lacrosse right now.

North Carolina has jumped out to a commanding 5-0 record so far this season, with three of its wins coming by double digits. Here's how the Tar Heels have gotten off to such a hot start.

Jamie Ortega and Katie Hoeg's dominance on offense

As a sophomore last year, Jamie Ortega became the first Tar Heel to record over 100 points in a single season. Later in the season, fellow attacker Katie Hoeg recorded her 100th point as well.

Both were great last season, but they have started the 2020 campaign on another level. The duo has led the Tar Heels' scoring barrage this year, combining to record 71 of the team’s 147 points. To put their blistering starts into context, both are ranked in the top three in points per game in the nation.

Ortega set the UNC record for most goals in a season last year with 81, while Hoeg set the assist record in 2019, and each is on pace to exceed their own records this season. 

While Ortega is only a junior, she is on pace to crack the top 25 in career goals in the NCAA by the end of this season and go down as one of the best scorers ever in college lacrosse. Early in her third year with UNC, Ortega has 174 career goals and needs just 63 more scores to enter the top 25.

The pair make up the most lethal duo in college lacrosse, and seem to be on a mission following last year's heartbreaking loss in the postseason.

...everyone else

UNC will need that duo to show up every game as it has one of the toughest schedules in college lacrosse this season, having already played four ranked teams. 

Among them is Maryland, a team which handed the Tar Heels their first of only four losses in 2019 in an overtime thriller. In a matchup this year, though, Maryland was stifled by the Tar Heel defense and mustered just six goals to UNC’s 19. This was good enough for the Tar Heels’ largest margin of victory ever against the Terrapins in 41 meetings.

It was neither Ortega nor Hoeg who paced UNC in that game, but junior midfielder Scottie Rose Growney. She netted six goals on the day and later earned ACC Offensive Player of the Week honors for her performance.

Goalkeeper Taylor Moreno, first-team All-ACC last year, and defender Emma Trenchard, reigning ACC Defender of the Year, led the No. 2 scoring defense in the country, helping the Tar Heels hold the best scoring margin in the country  — nearly three goals better than the next team.

After hosting unranked Louisville Thursday, UNC plays three top-10 teams in a row, including Northwestern, the only team in the country ahead of the Tar Heels in points per game.

With Ortega and Hoeg leading the show, the Tar Heels will look to muster a collective effort to avenge last year's loss in the NCAA semifinal and secure a national championship.


@DTHSports |

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