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Tuesday January 31st

Despite losing top scorers, UNC women's lacrosse has confidence for upcoming season

Sophomore attacker Caitlyn Wurzburger (13) cradles the ball during UNC's NCAA Tournament Championship Final against Boston College at Homewood Field in Baltimore, Md. on Sunday, May 29, 2022. UNC won 12-11.
Buy Photos Then sophomore attacker Caitlyn Wurzburger (13) cradles the ball during UNC's NCAA Tournament Championship Final against Boston College at Homewood Field in Baltimore, Md. on Sunday, May 29, 2022. UNC won 12-11.

The North Carolina women’s lacrosse team is looking to the future, not reminiscing about the past. 

For the upcoming season, the Tar Heels have the same goal they fulfilled last spring, which is playing for a national title and coming out on top. But to reach that point, the team has spent its offseason rebuilding its roster and seeking growth from young talent.

“We're gonna look a little different on the field this year, after three years of looking very similar,” head coach Jenny Levy said. “I think our players are excited to establish themselves.”

The Tar Heels are using fall ball as a chance to improve. Junior attacker Caitlyn Wurzburger said this time of the year plays an important role in team bonding through intra-squad scrimmages.

“I think every game we play together, we get better,” she said.

Here are several storylines to follow as the team prepares to defend its national title this spring.

Tar Heels take on Team USA

Aside from competing against each other, the Tar Heels played Team USA at the Fall Classic in Maryland on Oct. 15.

Levy – who was inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame that same day – handed over the reins of the UNC team to assistant coach Phil Barnes, while she coached Team USA. This allowed her to watch the team from an outside perspective, where she could appreciate the Tar Heels' progress.

“I really liked our mentality against them (Team USA),” Levy said. “I thought we competed in the middle of the field with the best athletes in the world of lacrosse, and it didn't matter what grade (or) what age the player at UNC was.”

Former midfielder Marie McCool returned to Chapel Hill as an assistant coach for the team this summer. She joined Team USA at the Fall Classic, playing against the Tar Heels. 

“They’re super talented,” McCool said. “So it’s just been really, really fun to just watch them every single day get better and better (and) grow together as a team."

New faces emerge in the offseason

After graduating six of the top eight scorers from last season, Levy said she is looking to rebuild the team’s offensive unit and considers Wurzburger its anchor. She scored three goals at the Fall Classic. 

Coming off a 76-point season in 2022, Wurzburger said she’s hoping to take on a larger leadership role this year, implementing the lessons she has learned from former UNC greats Katie Hoeg, Jamie Ortega and Emma Trenchard.

“I think us older girls, we need to lead the younger ones to a national championship this year because we know what it takes," she said. 

There will be a combination of fresh faces and returning players who are getting the opportunity to step in after previously sitting behind upperclassmen, the latter group featuring the likes sophomore midfielder Sam Forrest and junior midfielder Alyssa Long. 

Forrest said she was recently moved to a defensive position, which she considers "one of the most important parts of the game" so she will be focusing on her new role on the team.

Entering her third season as a Tar Heel, Long is looking forward to putting on the UNC jersey again as an upperclassman and contributing to the team – both on and off the field.

“I think I'm really looking forward to the chance for a lot of young and inexperienced girls to grow up and show that just because we lost people doesn't mean that we're anything less than the Carolina standard that we've always played at,” she said.

With still a few months before the season begins, the team is looking to continue to build confidence while finding its identity.

“We’re fast, we’re young and we’re talented, so I’m really excited to see what we do,” Wurzburger said. “There’s going to be ups and downs, but that’s what it kind of takes to be a national champion.”

@carolinewills03 

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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