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Friday August 12th

'Not done yet': UNC women's lacrosse seniors dominate Duke to clinch ACC season title

<p>DTH File. UNC fifth-year attacker Jamie Ortega (3) carries the ball downfield against Virginia Tech on Saturday, March 26, 2022, at Dorrance Field. UNC won 20-8.</p>
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DTH File. UNC fifth-year attacker Jamie Ortega (3) carries the ball downfield against Virginia Tech on Saturday, March 26, 2022, at Dorrance Field. UNC won 20-8.

With the No. 1 UNC women's lacrosse team losing just five games over the last four years, this group of graduating senior Tar Heels might just be the best Chapel Hill has ever seen. They will likely go down as some of the best in program history.

The numbers all go their way, too — back-to-back undefeated ACC regular seasons, 30 straight wins at Dorrance Field and 41 straight regular season wins.

So, with the ACC regular season title hanging in the balance, it’s only right this class went out with a senior night triumph against their biggest rivals.

On Thursday night, UNC throttled No. 5 Duke at home in dominant 18-4 fashion to win the program’s second-straight ACC regular season championship.

“Senior night is hard because it’s so emotional and we had so many seniors this year that we wanted to honor,” head coach Jenny Levy said. “Their parents have supported them for four, five or six years, and overall a great night.”

North Carolina’s seniors took control early and never let up, scoring 16 of UNC’s 18 goals and recording all eight of its assists. Chief among them was midfielder Scottie Rose Growney, who recorded her 25th career game of three or more goals to go along with two assists.

“It’s awesome,” Growney said. “Being able to come out on a Thursday night in primetime and play kill them was unreal. I was crying 20 minutes before the game, and it’s just so special.”

Other seniors like midfielder Ally Mastroianni and attacker Jamie Ortega fueled a 16-0 UNC run that broke the Duke levee down in the final three quarters. Mastroianni scored four times and Ortega recorded seven points — four goals and three assists — to leave no doubt once halftime hit.

“Offensively, we were just on the same page,” Ortega said. “Our defense gave up the two goals and then completely figured them out offensively and knew exactly how to play them. Every position was focused and dialed in.”

North Carolina dominated in the sport’s two most telling categories — turnovers and ground balls — to take down Duke. The Tar Heels mainly got after it in the ride, forcing the Blue Devils to run out of bounds and make contested catches.

What makes this result even more surprising, though, is that the Blue Devils won 16 of 25 total draw controls, which leads to more possessions and, usually, more goals. Duke midfielder Maddie Jenner, in Levy's mind, “is the best I’ve ever seen at the draw.”

“I have so much respect for her,” Mastroianni said. “We knew we had to keep the ball away from her, and we’d rather make it a 50/50 than let her reach up for it. We got it out and our circle girls did a pretty good job picking it up."

Defensively, UNC held the nation’s highest-scoring offense to four goals, four fewer than Duke’s previous season-low of eight at Liberty.

Ortega gets most of the attention but said she couldn’t be prouder of her defense’s performance, mainly from fellow seniors Taylor Moreno and Emma Trenchard.

“They’re incredible,” Ortega said. “We play every day with them and we don’t realize how good they are until they play other teams. Defense wins championships, and they’re going to be our anchor the rest of the season.”

The win caps a third-straight undefeated regular season for UNC women’s lacrosse, including the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign, and gives these seniors a chance to host the ACC tournament championship in two weeks on their home turf, if they get there.

For these seniors though, the goal doesn’t stop there.

None of these current Tar Heels have won it all, falling short in the 2018, 2019 and 2021 Final Fours — and they know that the ultimate prize is the only thing missing from their astonishing careers.

“I love this field and I’m happy to have played on it, but we’re not done yet,” Ortega said.

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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