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After shocking loss, No. 2 UNC women's lacrosse is looking for revenge this spring

UNC junior attacker Tayler Warehime (22) and UNC redshirt-senior attacker Katie Hoeg (8) celebrate after Tayler scores a goal at the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament against Stony Brook at the Dorrance Field in Chapel Hill on Saturday May 22, 2021. The Tar Heels won 14-11.

The 2021 season for the North Carolina women’s lacrosse team was filled with highs, including its No. 1 ranking and a 27-game winning streak, as the Tar Heels headed into a bout against No. 4 Boston College in the NCAA semifinals.

Leading attacker Jamie Ortega, record-breaking redshirt senior Katie Hoeg and breakout first-year attacker Caitlyn Wurzburger impressed with their prowess on the field. An immovable lineup characterized the defense, pioneered by players like fifth-year Emma Trenchard. With a packed roster and an undefeated record, the Tar Heels seemed primed to win the national championship.

And, yet, the Tar Heels lost 11-10 to the Eagles, halting their record-breaking winning streak and eliminating them from title contention.

Despite the shocking loss, head coach Jenny Levy and her team are ready for a new year, and this time, they’re looking to go all the way.

“I think the biggest thing with this group is that they’re willing to make the hard adjustments,” Levy said. “I’ve been very encouraged by our ability to learn the lessons that maybe we didn’t last year: staying hungry, humble and continuing to work hard.”

The Tar Heels — currently ranked No. 2 in the country — already look promising, leading the nation with nine preseason All-Americans, five of which were first-team honorees. 

Trenchard — recently honored with the Richard A. Baddour Carolina Leader of Distinction award alongside Hoeg — sees a newfound sense of communication and camaraderie in this year’s team, and she's hoping it will translate into better play on the field.

“We’re all very clear on what we want, so practices have been super awesome,” Trenchard said. “We want to make sure that when we step out on the field for the first time in 2022, it’s very clear to everyone what we want this team to be.”

UNC’s season starts off with some tough competitors, including No. 4 Northwestern, No. 10 Florida and No. 12 James Madison in the first few weeks of play. 

“I think our schedule will challenge us in multiple ways, but our team is used to that,” Levy said. “That definitely doesn’t mean it'll be easy, but a tough schedule is not uncharted waters for us. I’m excited to see a new strategic growth in both the girls and the coaches.”

That strategic growth comes in the form of a lot of players who are ready to step up this season. Levy emphasized the team’s attempts to increase depth in the midfield and make their offense more threatening, spearheaded by graduate midfielder Ally Mastroianni.

While the field will be led by familiar faces like Mastroianni and Trenchard, there’s plenty of focus on new breakout players who are stepping up into more prominent roles on the field.

“Something that makes our middies unique is that each player brings something to the table,” Mastroianni said. “Being able to mix it up and have so many options who are all threats definitely makes our team stand out compared to others.”

The defense is also strong, with junior Emily Nalls primed to take a step forward after her first two years were affected by COVID-19. 

“She’s coming in with a lot of experience,” Trenchard said. “She was always considered our fourth defender, and I think this season she’s really stepped up and is ready to be one of the top defenders on our team.”

The team is ready to have a strong showing throughout the season and reinforce its position as a driving force in college lacrosse.

This is especially true for its March 20 matchup with none other than the team that stopped last year's tournament run.

“I think we’re all really looking forward to that Boston College game,” Mastroianni said. “It definitely still hurts from last year, but that’s just more motivation.”

@dthsports |

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