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Wednesday June 29th

Lessons learned from UNC women's lacrosse's first two wins in the 2022 ACC Tourney

Scottie Rose Growney (15), a 5th year senior, runs with the ball in the game against Jacksonville University in Dorrance Field on Saturday, February 27, 2022.
Buy Photos DTH File. Scottie Rose Growney (15), a 5th year senior, runs with the ball in the game against Jacksonville University in Dorrance Field on Saturday, February 27, 2022.

The No. 1 UNC women’s lacrosse team is no stranger to ACC Tournament success. The Tar Heels have the longest-ever streak of consecutive ACC Tournament wins with 17, and they will be seeking their sixth consecutive ACC title on Saturday. 

Despite the team’s consistent success, North Carolina is always learning.

The Tar Heels traveled to South Bend, Ind. for the quarterfinals after receiving a bye for the first round of the tournament.

“We hadn't gotten in until 1:30 on Thursday morning,” head coach Jenny Levy said. “I knew that we would be playing tired, and I thought we did a really good job with that.”

Top-seeded North Carolina started their tournament run with a dominant 15-6 victory over No. 8 seed Pitt. Fifth-year attacker Scottie Rose Growney had five goals and fellow fifth-year attacker Jamie Ortega had three. However, the Tar Heels admit their performance against the Panthers was not perfect. The Tar Heels had ten turnovers and struggled to turn their shot attempts into goals due to impressive saves by Panther goalie Paulina DiFatta.

“We definitely didn't play our best lacrosse against Pitt,” graduate attacker Andie Aldave said. “We came out a little bit flat. So for us, I think it was good to have that experience. We won, but I think we learned a lot.”

After the learning experience of the Pitt game, the Tar Heels had to prepare to face off against No. 5 seed Notre Dame. Not only did the Fighting Irish have a home-field advantage, but they were also coming off a win against No. 4 seed Duke.

“You just have to understand that you've got to match their energy, and that the game will be emotional,” Levy said. “You know that in the stands, there will be a lot of energy coming from the home team. I just love putting my team in that situation.”

Notre Dame was quick to apply the pressure in Sunday’s semifinal match, scoring the first five goals of the game. The Tar Heels scored twice before the end of the first quarter but still found themselves facing a three-goal deficit.

“We caught them hot,” Aldave said. “I think it was a good challenge for us to see where we were when we lined up against a hot team.”

North Carolina embraced that challenge and responded accordingly, going on a 12-1 scoring run to take control of the game.

However, the Fighting Irish weren’t willing to give up on their home turf that easily. They went on a 6-1 run to make the score 13-12 in UNC’s favor. In the end, the Tar Heels pulled off a slim 14-13 win. Growney scored four goals in the Notre Dame matchup, including UNC’s first and last goal of the game.

“It's pretty awesome to be able to help gain momentum for the team, especially when we needed a bit of a spark,” Growney said. “We gotta win, we gotta score. Someone's gotta do it.”

Aldave also had a strong performance on Saturday with three goals. This performance was made more significant by the fact that she was facing off against her former school. Aldave transferred from Notre Dame to UNC for her final year of college eligibility.

“I'm not a big points person, so it's always awesome to score,” Aldave said. “But at the end of the day, I have a lot of respect for Notre Dame.”

After a long season of difficult travel, the Tar Heels will return to Chapel Hill to host the ACC Championship, which will be against the reigning national champions — No. 2 seed Boston College on Saturday night. 

UNC and Boston College are the two top-ranked women’s lacrosse programs in the nation. The ACC rivals have already played once this season at Boston College, which resulted in a close 16-15 Tar Heel win. The victory ended a 13-game winning streak for the Eagles.

Though UNC won the regular-season matchup against Boston College in 2021, the Eagle spoiled the Tar Heels' championship hopes in the NCAA Tournament. Boston College beat UNC, 11-10, in the semifinals and went on to win the national championship. Saturday provides an opportunity for the Tar Heels to avenge their loss on a postseason stage.

“We're looking forward to finally being able to let loose after the stresses of finals and leave it all on the field,” Growney said. “Hopefully that comes out as another championship.”

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com



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