After securing its sixth consecutive ACC title, the North Carolina women’s lacrosse team has its sights set on bringing home another national championship home to Dorrance Field.
Winners of 53 of their last 55 games, the Tar Heels currently hold an undefeated record for the 2022 season. However, despite its illustrious winning streak, UNC hasn’t won an NCAA title since 2016, which was also the last time North Carolina made an appearance in the championship game.
The road back to the mountaintop begins Sunday for the Tar Heels, as they look to snap the program's five-year NCAA title drought. Here’s a look at a few teams North Carolina could face en route to returning to the Final Four in Baltimore.
On Friday at noon, Virginia will square off against Southern California in Chapel Hill, and a win would set up a rematch against North Carolina.
The Cavaliers are led by ACC Freshman of the Year Rachel Clark, who recorded six goals in Virginia’s upset win over Syracuse in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals. The first-year midfielder thrives on the right side of the cage, where she’s made a living off of top-pocket finishes on her way to scoring 60 goals this season.
Alongside Clark, senior Ashlyn McGovern rounds out a lethal two-headed attack for UVA. The first team All-ACC honoree also tallied 60 goals this year and ranks second in the conference in shots per game. Unlike her counterpart, McGovern operates largely on the left side of the field and likes to break down defenders in isolation sets.
A large part of the Cavaliers’ struggles, seen in the team’s 9-9 record, have come on the defensive side. As a team, Virginia ranks near the bottom of the ACC in goals allowed per game, surrendering just over 13 goals per contest.
In April, UNC defeated Virginia in Charlottesville, 17-7. Clark and McGovern scored all seven of Virginia's goals.
Out of the Pac-12, the Southern California Trojans finished the season with a 13-4 record and an 8-2 finish in conference play. USC possesses a high-powered offense that sits top-20 nationally in points per game.
The engine behind the Trojans’ offensive prowess? Pac-12 Midfielder of the Year, Kelsey Huff.
The do-it-all graduate student used her creativity and allusiveness to tally 45 goals this year. Whether it's launching past the 8-meter line or squirming her way through the heart of a defense, the Trojans’ team captain always seems to find herself in favorable scoring positions.
But an offense as potent as USC's isn’t powered by a single player. In addition to Huff, the Trojans roster three other players who have all netted at least 30 goals this season.
No. 8 Stony Brook
If the Tar Heels advance past the second round, a quarterfinals matchup against the eighth-seeded Stony Brook Seawolves could be in the works.
If one word could be used to describe Stony Brook, it’d be defense. The Seawolves boast the top scoring defense in the country and have held 11 of their last 12 opponents to single-digit scoring.
Despite this, Stony Brook has struggled against stiffer competition and the team’s defensive success could be a product of competing in the America East Conference. Moreover, Stony Brook has failed to prove itself against highly ranked opponents, dropping games against No. 6 Syracuse, 12-11, and No. 4 Northwestern, 16-12.
Nonetheless, the Seawolves would look to rewrite its script composed earlier in the season if a match against top-ranked North Carolina was to occur.