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."