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Friday May 7th

UNC women's lacrosse hopes to follow dominant regular season with an ACC Championship

UNC first year midfielder Shannon Smith attempts to get the ball from a Virginia player at the game against Virginia on Sunday Apr. 18, 2021 at the Dorrance Field. UNC won 15-4.
Buy Photos UNC first year midfielder Shannon Smith attempts to get the ball from a Virginia player at the game against Virginia on Sunday Apr. 18, 2021 at the Dorrance Field. UNC won 15-4.

The UNC women's lacrosse team is entering the ACC tournament as the team to beat. 

At 15-0, the No. 1 Tar Heels have only played two close games all season, winning the rest of their competitions by a margin of six goals or more. UNC will also enjoy the luxury of home field advantage with all the matches this week being played on Dorrance Field in Chapel Hill. 

The Tar Heels hope to extend their ACC championship streak to five. The title has remained in Chapel Hill since 2016, and head coach Jenny Levy looks to bring home another one for her squad after the 2020 tournament was canceled due to COVID-19.

While UNC had a dominant regular season, nothing is a given in a conference that is home to four of the top five women's lacrosse teams in the country. Seven of the eight teams competing in the ACC tournament are in the top 25 — the most of any conference. 

North Carolina will begin tournament play against Louisville, a team it defeated 19-7 earlier this season on the road. If the Tar Heels advance, they will face either Notre Dame or Duke in the semifinals — the only two teams who have played close games against the Tar Heels all season. In both of those competitions, UNC barely escaped a loss, winning by only one goal each time. 

The gauntlet of tournament games will not let up for the Tar Heels if they make it to the final game, where they will most likely face either Syracuse or Boston College, who have only lost to UNC and each other this season. Both the Orange and the Eagles are ranked in the top five.

The Tar Heels have found success so far this season relying on a stout defense that ranks No. 1 in the country in scoring defense. UNC averages only 6.2 goals allowed per game. The Tar Heels' strong defensive performances are led by senior goalkeeper Taylor Moreno, who is second nationwide in save percentage. 

North Carolina will aim to carry that defensive success into tournament play to limit opponent opportunities. The only close games of the Tar Heels' season have come when they have allowed their opponents to score 10 or more goals. 

UNC marries their defensive success with a well-rounded attack with seven players tallying over 10 goals on the season. Their offense is led by the tandem of Katie Hoeg and Jamie Ortega, who are responsible for a little over 40 percent of the team's total points this season. Ortega is ranked second nationally in shot percentage and Hoeg comes in fourth on assists per game. The senior duo will look to make a huge impact in their final ACC tournament together in Carolina Blue. 

The North Carolina offense has also found success this season by holding onto the ball. They are ranked first in the country in turnovers, averaging about 10 per game. Controlling the ball is important for a team that has outshot its opponents by 148 shots this season. 

The ACC title looks to be North Carolina's to lose if the Tar Heels can maintain their defensive success and convert the way they have all season. UNC will be seeking its sixth ACC title and third national championship this postseason after the cancellation of a promising 2020 season.

@marymacporter1

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com


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