Less than a minute into North Carolina women’s lacrosse’s 18-3 victory over Mercer on Saturday, Katie Hoeg connected with fellow senior attacker Scottie Rose Growney for the first goal of the game.
Just 28 seconds later, the Tar Heels scored a second goal. Then, they scored again. And again. And again.
Before four minutes had passed, UNC was up 5-0, all before Mercer even had the chance to clear the ball to its side of the field. Four straight times the Tar Heels had controlled the draw and immediately scored, the latter three goals coming by way of Jamie Ortega, a senior attacker and the program’s all-time goals leader.
“Every game we play we always just want to come out strong, come with energy, come focused and dialed,” Ortega said. “Scoring three goals within a few minutes, I think everyone got into a groove and that's huge for us.”
The No. 1 Tar Heels put together one of their most dominant performances in a single frame this season, leading 14-0 at halftime. It was the most goals the team has scored in a half all season, with Ortega leading the way with five.
Ortega said that despite the lopsided score, the offense could not allow themselves to lose intensity.
“Any team can come back, and being at North Carolina everyone wants to play their best game against you, and we can’t really be able to lay low and lay back like that,” she said.
In addition to the team's strong offensive performance, the defense was also stout, allowing zero goals in a half for just the second time this season. Senior goalkeeper Taylor Moreno notched five saves in her only half of play, maintaining a perfect save percentage for the afternoon.
Moreno said that the early onslaught of scoring helped the defense settle into the game, with the Tar Heels leading comfortably before Mercer could even get off a shot on goal.
“The adrenaline and the anticipation for us especially is very high going into the beginning of the game,” Moreno said. “Once the offense was able to put a couple away I think that really helped settle us and compose us to just kind of lock it down back there.”
After being able to take out the starters early in the second half and cruise to the win, UNC is now heading into one of its toughest bouts of the season with a matchup against No. 2 Syracuse in Chapel Hill slated for next Saturday.
“Collectively, we’re all so excited to have such a great game with ‘Cuse,” Moreno said. “We usually have battles with them, and I think it’ll be really interesting to see how our team can rise to the occasion and really put forth all of the hard work we’ve been putting in and the things we have been working on all year.”
In recent years, Syracuse and UNC have been among the top teams in the country, although Syracuse has lost the last four meetings.
At this point in the season, it seems that Syracuse is one of the few remaining teams that could give the Tar Heels a run for their money. The Orange are also undefeated at 6-0 and have beaten some of the same nationally ranked teams that UNC has defeated this season, including Duke and Stony Brook.
“We didn’t have the opportunity to play them last year so this will be very built up, you know us being number one and them being number two,” assistant coach Emily Parros said. “There’s a lot of anticipation for it, and you know we’re really looking forward to the challenge. It should be a good test for us.”
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