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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: Women's sports teams dominate UNC athletics, so treat them like it


UNC sophomore forward Isabel Cox (13) drives downfield against FSU junior midfielder Jailen Howell (6) in Sahlen's Stadium in Cary, NC on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020. The Seminoles beat the Tar Heels 3-2 to win the ACC Women's Soccer championship.

Three national championships, six national semifinals appearances, two national players of the year, over a dozen first-team All-Americans.

To have won all those accolades over the course of the entire history of an athletic program would be considered an impressive accomplishment for almost any university.

Not at the University of North Carolina — that's just what UNC sports brought in last year.

Maybe you missed seeing Austin O'Connor capture the 149-pound NCAA wrestling title back in March, or the women's tennis duo of Makenna Jones and Elizabeth Scotty claim the doubles championship in May. Perhaps you haven't even heard about the UNC field hockey dynasty that has now won back-to-back-to-back championships.

The unfortunate truth is that not many self-proclaimed Tar Heel fans paid heed to the world-class athletes who added to UNC's trophy cases this year, for the simple reason that they weren't on the basketball or football teams.

If you're an incoming student, you may have the preconception that North Carolina is a "basketball school," a label that in no way represents the true nature of UNC athletics.

Trust me, that's just the tip of the iceberg.

If you really wanted to single out one team to define the vast array of varsity sports at UNC, you would want to start by looking at the women's programs.

For too long, the triumphs of women's sports at UNC have gone unacknowledged by the average sports fan.

We're not just the school that produced Michael Jordan, we’re the school that produced Mia Hamm.

Of the Tar Heels' 47 NCAA team titles, women's teams have won 34 of them. But you wouldn't know it from all the attention and coverage of the men's programs that greatly overshadows that of the women's.

The UNC women's teams first surpassed the men's in total championships in the 1980s, when women's collegiate sports first started to gain traction, and that trend of dominance still persists today.

Women's soccer and field hockey haven't let up since their first titles over 30 years ago, and more recently, the women's lacrosse and women's tennis teams have emerged as national powers.

In the last decade, women's teams have won 11 championships across four sports, compared to five men's titles.

So even though you, in all likelihood, are excited about the prospects of cheering on the Tar Heels in Kenan Memorial Stadium and the Smith Center, don't let that be where your fandom end.

After all, what has the men's basketball team done recently to keep the excitement of the fans?

For a team that came into last season ranked No. 16, had the ACC preseason player of the year and brought in a top-three recruiting class, you can't call an 18-11 record and a brutal first-round tournament loss anything other than a disappointment.

And yes, it's been great to watch the rebirth of the football team under the tutelage of Mack Brown, but in all reality, the chances of UNC ever becoming anything more than the little brother to Clemson in the ACC are incredibly slim.

If students are willing to flock the Dean Dome this year to see a team that's been trending downwards, helmed by a rookie head coach in Hubert Davis, then they are just as capable of carrying that same enthusiasm to support the women's soccer team coached by Hall of Famer Anson Dorrance.

Or the field hockey team coached by Hall of Famer Karen Shelton. Or the women's lacrosse team coached by Hall of Famer Jenny Levy.

You get the point.

My hope is that when you get to Chapel Hill, you'll soon realize that men's basketball and football are just two of the almost 30 varsity sports programs that the University boasts, each with a winning pedigree that's worthy of your respect.

So venture outside your comfort zone as a UNC fan. Grab a ticket to watch a sport that you may not be familiar with, sit down and watch greatness unfold before your eyes.

You won't regret it.


@dthsports |

Lucas Thomae

Lucas Thomae is the 2023-24 sports managing editor at The Daily Tar Heel. He has previously served as an assistant sports editor and summer editor. Lucas is a senior pursuing a major in journalism and media with a minor in data science.