When asked about what made senior goalkeeper Taylor Moreno special, UNC women's lacrosse head coach Jenny Levy consistently repeated one word: maturity.
“This year, she’s just at a different level on and off the field,” Levy said. “We have a goalie where we aren’t riding any type of emotional rollercoaster, there’s a lot of trust in what she can do.”
This maturity was on display Friday when No. 1 North Carolina beat No. 8 Florida, 11-5. The five goals the Gators scored were just a fraction of the 14 they scored in their season opener, a testament to the talent of Moreno.
As she was quick to point out, though, it was the talent of the entire UNC defense as well that helped Moreno haul in 11 saves off 16 shots on goal for the day.
“The saves that I’m making in the game, it’s not going to happen without our defense,” Moreno said. “Without them, it could certainly be going a different direction.”
Both defenses showed up early, stopping the other teams’ offenses until UNC senior attacker Scottie Rose Growney scored at the 22:30 mark of the opening frame off a free position goal — the first of four goals for her on the day. The combination of a wet field and a suffocating UNC defense led to three early Florida turnovers, the third of which led to a Tar Heels transition where senior attacker Jamie Ortega found senior midfielder Ally Mastroianni on the crease to put UNC up 2-0.
Florida responded with just over 16 minutes to go in the first half to bring UNC’s lead back down to one. Great defensive play from both sides kept the game at 2-1 until the 7:57 mark, when graduate transfer Kerrigan Miller scored her first goal as a Tar Heel off a free position goal to put UNC up by two again. Just 48 seconds later, Growney added another goal onto the UNC lead from yet another free position goal.
North Carolina looked as if it would go into the half with a three-goal cushion, but two goals 31 seconds apart from Florida brought the UNC lead down to one going into the half.
Moreno said maintaining composure despite the Gators' run was key.