As the North Carolina women's lacrosse team took the field at US Lacrosse Headquarters in Sparks, Md. against Team USA, the players were eye-to-eye with many familiar faces.
The two championship teams squared off against each other for a showcase game at the Fall Classic last Saturday, which culminated in Team USA's 13-7 victory over UNC. But despite the high level of play, there was no animosity between the opponents — instead, a sense of camaraderie was evident from the start of the game.
“It was a really special experience,” UNC junior attacker Caitlyn Wurzburger said. “A lot of us were joking it felt like an alumni game almost because so many of our alumni were on Team USA.”
Nine former Tar Heels, including UNC assistant coach Marie McCool and current senior midfielder Olivia Dirks, made up almost half of Team USA’s 19-person roster. Head coach Jenny Levy is also the lead figure for both teams.
“Having the opportunity to play for Team USA is always a fun one, but especially against your former team and a team that you now coach," McCool said. "It was a really, really cool opportunity and just to watch how our players responded to playing against some of the best players in the world was really exciting.”
After graduating a core of veteran leaders that helped the team win the 2022 national championship, there might have been significant rumblings about UNC's potential drop-off in performance. The Fall Classic was the first chance for many of the new players on the 2023 roster to test themselves, which produced immediate results.
“We have a lot of new faces out there and so I think what an incredible experience for them,” McCool said. “You saw a lot of freshmen on the field on Saturday being able to step on the field with some of the reigning world champs and best players in the world.”
The game got off to a quick start, as Team USA midfielder Ally Kennedy scored within the first minute. Shortly after, Team USA added another goal to extend its lead.
After being caught off guard at the start, UNC was able to regain its composure and inch closer to tying up the game. This was largely due to an aggressive offensive effort on behalf of Wurzburger, who ended the game with a hat trick, as well as a standout defensive performance from sophomore goalkeeper Alecia Nicholas.