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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC women's lacrosse hires former midfielder Marie McCool as assistant coach

Marie McCool high fives

Marie McCool high fives her teammates before the team's Senior Day game against Duke on April 21, 2018 at Kenan Stadium.

As a first-year defender, Emma Trenchard was standing in the circle in 2018 when the Tar Heel women’s lacrosse team went to overtime in a late-February game against No. 1 Maryland. 

She scooped up the ground ball after team captain and senior midfielder Marie McCool took the first draw of the overtime period. Later that same possession, first-year attacker Jamie Ortega made a critical pass to McCool, who scored the game-winning goal. 

The Tar Heels defeated Maryland, 16-15, foreshadowing a successful season where the Tar Heels won the ACC Championship and made a deep NCAA Tournament run. 

When Trenchard reflects on the game against Maryland, she remembers how inspiring McCool was to her and her teammates, a skill she believes will be an invaluable asset when McCool joins head coach Jenny Levy on the Tar Heels’ staff as an assistant coach this season. 

“Me, as a freshman who got the ball and Jamie, who got the assist as a freshman, the fact that we had the confidence and empowerment from Marie to make those plays just shows how much she's a leader,” Trenchard said.

McCool won a national championship and three ACC tournament championships as a former Tar Heel standout, racking up a multitude of personal accolades along the way. She was first-team All-America and first-team All-ACC three times, ACC Midfielder of the Year twice, and also won the ILWomen's 2018 National Midfielder of the Year. 

“I think she knows and she understands what it takes to go through Carolina and to be a champion,” former player Ally Mastroianni said. “She knows what the culture is like and what type of girls (Levy), and I think by her knowing all of that stuff and actually having experienced it firsthand, it's so much value.” 

As a midfielder, McCool has experience on both sides of the game and can help both offensive and defensive players hone their skills. During Mastroianni’s senior season, McCool scrimmaged with the players and consistently demonstrated challenging or confusing techniques in drills. 

“I think that is super valuable for the girls to see and to actually play with someone with such a high caliber as her,” Mastroianni said. “They can watch her and learn from her. And, by playing with her or seeing her demonstrate things, they can see it right in front of their eyes and actually do it."

While McCool described accepting the position as a no-brainer, she may have still been working her nine-to-five job for a digital health company if not for a pivotal conversation with her parents and fiancée in early August. During the conversation, McCool's family reminded her of how passionate she was about her work as a volunteer assistant at UNC during the 2021 season. 

McCool’s acceptance of the assistant coaching position at UNC also had a lot to do with the relationship she has with her former head coach. McCool played for Levy her entire college career, and after that, the two reunited on the U.S. Women's National Team. This summer, McCool helped lead Team USA to its fourth-straight World Lacrosse Women's Championship with 20 goals and 17 draw controls, making the All-World team for her effort.

"Jenny Levy is someone who has had such an impact on my life over the past eight years,” McCool said. “I think knowing who she is as a person, the opportunity to learn from her was something that I was really excited about.” 

While McCool is ready to take on her new position at UNC, she insists that she's “not ready to hang up the cleats yet" and wants to continue playing while coaching at North Carolina. 

Along with excitement for her next chapter with the UNC women’s lacrosse program, McCool is grateful for the opportunity to return to a place where she has so much history.

“I’m really excited to get back to Chapel Hill and be able to be back in the Carolina blue and be back home," she said.

@dthsports |

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