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Monday June 27th

No. 2 UNC women's lacrosse breezes past Northwestern in top-five matchup

<p>Members of the UNC women’s lacrosse team dance &nbsp;to the fight song after defeating Northwestern, 20-9, on Sunday, March 6, 2022.</p>
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Members of the UNC women’s lacrosse team dance  to the fight song after defeating Northwestern, 20-9, on Sunday, March 6, 2022.

With the sun beaming down and perennial title contender Northwestern in town, the No. 2 North Carolina women’s lacrosse team passed its first true test of the season on Sunday. 

At the end of a back-and-forth first quarter, the Wildcats held a one-goal lead. But by the time the buzzer sounded to signal the end of the first period, the Tar Heels were in complete control. 

When it was all set and done, UNC scored 20 goals to complete a nine-score demolition. 

Eight players scored and three more added hat-tricks. For much of the second half, North Carolina was in front of its goal, moving the ball incisively and working constantly into dangerous positions. 

All in all, it was simply a well-rounded, dominant display. 

“That’s our goal every year, seven threats on the field, obviously we’ve got some special, talented kids,” head coach Jenny Levy said. “It takes some time to get it organized and get into rhythm but I thought once we did that today we really opened up the game.” 

Even with the balanced attack, graduate attacker Sam Geiersbach stood out. She scored a season-high five goals — two of which came in the Tar Heels’ impressive second quarter — and added an assist to boot. 

Four-time All-American Jamie Ortega — the program's all-time points leader — may be the biggest name in North Carolina’s attack, but its depth of talent means it's never certain where the goals will come from. 

“Confidence for us is key,” Geiersbach said. 

To hear Ortega tell it, the key to North Carolina’s quickly-developing offensive chemistry has been building off-the-field relationships. 

“We spend every day together, but it’s the relationships that you pursue outside of lacrosse which I think shows massively on the field,” she said. 

With ACC play looming in the near future, Sunday provided an opportunity for the Tar Heels to get battle tested before entering play in the nation’s most talented conference. The top-three teams in the country are from the ACC, and the conference has six total representatives in the top-25. 

Playing Northwestern, a Final Four team from a year ago and current No. 5 team in the country, this early season win served as a measuring stick for just where this North Carolina team is at after an undefeated season ended in the Final Four last year. 

“Our philosophy is basically using the early season to see what we can learn about ourselves and what can challenge us to get better,” Levy said.

Save for a pair of games against Mercer and High Point, North Carolina’s remaining schedule is composed of ACC teams. A bout with No. 1 Boston College — which knocked UNC out of the NCAA Tournament last year on its way to a national championship — looks to be the Tar Heels next true test. 

Despite the result, there’s still work to be done for this North Carolina team to reach national championship heights for the first time since 2016. 

But for now, Sunday’s result showed just how dominant the Tar Heels are capable of being. 

“Sometimes you don’t really know how good you are until you really test it,” Ortega said. “Moving forward in the next games it shows we have that next level in us, and it’s not there yet but it’s eventually going to come over time.” 

@zachycrain

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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