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'We're here to stay': Women's lacrosse opens season with win over No. 6 Stony Brook

Redshirt sophomore midfielder Elizabeth Hillman lunges for the ball at the woman's lacrosse game against Stony Brook University at Dorrance Field on Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Camarati/UNC Athletics.

After a Saturday matchup with James Madison was postponed, the No. 1 North Carolina women’s lacrosse team began its 2021 season with a top-10 matchup against No. 6 Stony Brook on Sunday.

The game was immensely physical for a season-opener, but a potent offensive attack and elite play from UNC goalkeeper Taylor Moreno led to a 14-7 North Carolina victory. Here's how UNC was able to come away with a win in its first competition in nearly a year.

Offensive distribution

Two goals by Stony Brook in the first five minutes left UNC trailing and looking to battle back, a position the Tar Heels don't often find themselves in. But by the end of the match, North Carolina was able to put 14 goals on the board from six different players.  

Redshirt senior Katie Hoeg was the first to strike, as she responded quickly to Stony Brook’s early lead by putting the Tar Heels’ first goal on the board. She later put another shot in the back of the net, giving her two goals for the match.

Next to score was junior attacker Tayler Warehime. She was able to maneuver through Stony Brook's defense and put two goals in the net to bring the score even at 3-3. Warehime later added two more goals to the Tar Heels’ score, totaling a team-high four in the match.

“Once we got in rhythm on attack, it was all go," Warehime said. 

Senior attacker Jamie Ortega also proved to be essential in UNC’s offensive attack, as she was able to capitalize on three of her four shots on goal.

Senior midfielder Ally Mastroianni and senior attacker Scottie Rose Growney both scored two goals for UNC, and redshirt sophomore Elizabeth Hillman posted one goal in the match.

This widespread distribution gave the Tar Heels a distinct advantage over Stony Brook, causing the Seawolves’ defense to fold.

“On our offensive end, on a day like today when it’s really cold and rainy, they hung tough," head coach Jenny Levy said. "Couldn’t feel their hands but had to make plays, and I thought they did a really great job." 

Savoring possessions

Despite committing 16 turnovers and falling behind on overall shots, North Carolina's offensive system was able to create excellent scoring opportunities when it had possession. Of UNC's 23 shots, 21 were on goal. 

“When they would cause turnovers, they were lightning fast out there,” Hoeg said. “When we got those possessions on offense, we knew we just had to make the most of them. We knew that the defense would have our backs.” 

In addition to her two goals, Hoeg posted a game-high five assists. These assists would not have been possible without help from UNC's defense.

“The connection between the defense and offense was so smooth," Warehime said. "We had so many goals off of transition that the defense had started." 

Elite goalkeeping

Moreno was a critical factor to North Carolina’s win against the Seawolves. Facing 17 shots on goal, she made 10 stops. 

Defending a team with the physicality of Stony Brook was no easy feat, but the Tar Heels were able to hold the Seawolves to just five goals after their initial offensive explosion.

“In the second half, when Stony Brook made a run, it didn’t surprise us because they’re a great team,” Levy said. “But I really like how we responded to that at that moment, our defense did a great job today. They held a really potent Stony Brook attack that’s very dynamic and very aggressive.”

After almost a year of no collegiate competition, UNC made a clear statement that the team can be elite once again in 2021.

“We knew we needed to play our game,” Hoeg said. “I think we proved ourselves and that we’re here to stay.”  


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