The North Carolina women's lacrosse team won its sixth-straight ACC title against Boston College on Saturday, thanks to a comeback effort led by its core of veterans.
The championship game saw top-seeded UNC take on No. 2 Boston College at Dorrance Field in an epic rematch of last year's national semifinals. On Saturday, the Eagles took a two-goal lead going into halftime. UNC went into the locker room with just four goals — its fewest first-half goals this season.
“Our spacing offensively was so bad," head coach Jenny Levy said. "We couldn’t see anything and everyone was just standing around."
That changed in the second half. Coming out of the break, the Tar Heels went on a 10-0 run to pull away from the Eagles.
“Everyone was just feeding off of each other's energy,” fifth-year attacker Jamie Ortega said. “Every possession is going to be different, and everyone just believed in each other.”
Ortega scored the first goal of the second half, crowning her as the ACC's all-time career points leader with 446.
Ortega's goal marked a turning point in the game, in which the veteran leadership of UNC's fifth-years and graduate players took over. This group, composed of ACC All-Tournament Team selections Ortega, graduate goalkeeper Taylor Moreno, graduate midfielder Ally Mastroianni, fifth-year attacker Scottie Rose Growney and fifth-year defender Emma Trenchard came out strong in the second half and never looked back.
“That class has been a spectacular class, and they’ve been surrounded by great teammates all through their five years here,” Levy said.
Ortega finished with four goals and five assists on the night and was named the ACC Tournament MVP for the second time in her career.
Moreno was a difference-maker in the cage with nine saves. Her biggest threat was Boston College graduate attacker Charlotte North, the reigning Tewaaraton Award winner. Moreno saved four of North’s shots on goal, and five more shots were missed by North.
Trenchard was put in charge of defending North, limiting her to one goals and one assist while matched up. Not only are Trenchard and North conference rivals, but the two players are also teammates on Team USA.
“That battle between her [North] and Emma was unbelievable,” Levy said. “They will be happy when the season is over and they’ll be on the same team [this summer] because the matchup between them doesn’t get better to watch.”
Mastroianni finished with three goals and one assist, and Growney finished with four goals to add to her unbelievable tournament run. Over the three tournament games, Growney scored 13 goals.
UNC's veterans attributed their on-field chemistry to the close personal bonds they've made over the years.
“We are so close. We are like sisters and I think that’s what makes that bond and chemistry on the field so amazing," Growney said. "We’ve worked hard to build that. This is our time to shine.”
With their sixth-straight ACC Championship victory, the Tar Heels tied the longest streak of consecutive titles in conference history. It was Levy's seventh career ACC title, passing Cathy Reese of Maryland for the most in conference history.
Still undefeated, the team likely clinched the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament with the victory. The number one seed would give UNC a first-round bye, then a home-field advantage for the second and quarterfinal rounds.
“Winning the ACC is a huge goal and we’ve accomplished that, but we want to get to Championship Weekend and get past the semifinals, because that’s something we haven’t done yet,” Growney said.