If luck of the Irish really exists, it was not at Dorrance Field on Friday.
After going down 2-0 to Notre Dame in the first six minutes of the game, the North Carolina women’s lacrosse team went on an 18-0 run, keeping the Fighting Irish scoreless for 47 minutes. Notre Dame would score a pair of goals in the waning moments of a game already decided.
The Tar Heels walked away with an18-4 win in the ACC Tournament semifinal to advance to their 14th ACC Championship game in team history.
The Tar Heels were led by the dominant performances of senior attackers Katie Hoeg and Jamie Ortega, who both tallied seven points.
Ortega netted six goals, while Hoeg added six assists, setting an ACC semifinal record. Those assists brought Hoeg’s postseason total to 13, breaking her own tournament record for total assists.
“Our group was really focused collectively, and I think when that happens, great things happen and we can make magic on the field,” head coach Jenny Levy said.
Ortega was sidelined April 18 during the Tar Heels' matchup against Virginia, but she was back in the lineup for the first-round win against Louisville and put up three goals. On Friday, she returned to the dominant form that she’s shown throughout her entire career.
“My teammates have been like, ‘I’ve got your back, we can trust you,’ and I think once I’m out there, my adrenaline is pumping, I’m just playing how I usually do,” Ortega said.
The Tar Heels' defense also stepped up after conceding the first two goals, holding the Fighting Irish to their first game of the season scoring under 10 goals. And it was the two Tewaaraton Award finalists and first-team All-ACC players — senior goalie Taylor Moreno and senior defender Emma Trenchard — who fueled the turnaround.
“We’re anchored by Taylor Moreno; in the first half, she had a one-on-none save, and that’s what she’s capable of," Levy said. "I love seeing her play at such a high level, at such a complicated position mentality. She’s been excellent all year for us and just another great player.”
With the ACC Tournament being played at Dorrance Field, the Tar Heels are able to play on the field where they’ve picked opponents apart all year long.
During the regular season playing at home, North Carolina outscored opponents by an average of 10.54 goals per game, and the ACC Tournament has been no different.
“It’s something special to play at your home stadium and my last ACC Tournament,” Hoeg said. “It’s awesome to see the Carolina Blue stands and see all our fans in the stands as well, and it’s just something so special and I’m trying to not take it for granted, but we’re just really lucky that we get to be here this year.”
Heading into the finals, the Tar Heels have all the momentum coming off of an undefeated regular season, home-field advantage, the No. 1 ranking and an All-American cast of players.
Now it's time to make it count.