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The Daily Tar Heel

No. 1 UNC women's lacrosse displays depth in home win over Liberty

UNC junior attacker Caitlyn Wurzburger (15) scores during the women's lacrosse game against Liberty on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023, at Dorrance Field. UNC beat Liberty 18-6.

As the undefeated defending national champions and preseason No. 1, a lot is expected of the North Carolina women’s lacrosse team. 

Wednesday’s 18-6 victory over Liberty showcased the team’s depth and ability to play like a top-ranked team. Despite the ease with which they eventually won, it wasn’t all easy for the Tar Heels. 

After a series of UNC turnovers — the Tar Heels recorded three in the opening three minutes – Liberty quickly scored two goals. The Flames found the top left corner of the goal for a third score near the end of the quarter. 

But the Tar Heels turned it on late, scoring three goals in the final two minutes of the first period. Two were from junior attacker Caitlyn Wurzburger, who sparked a 7-1 run in the second quarter. This energy overflowed in the second half for a dominating win. 

UNC head coach Jenny Levy described Liberty as "super aggressive" and "super athletic." She said Flames fought for every inch on the field. In other words, they brought the exact energy that the Tar Heels needed for a tough early-season test.

"A Wednesday night game in February against a team like that is a great opportunity for us to see who can handle what, get a little nervous, make some mistakes, throw the ball away and then recover from that," Levy said. "It was awesome.”

With four goals in the first half, Wurzburger played a crucial role in helping the team secure the lead heading into halftime. She also distributed the ball well, tallying three assists over the course of the game, which contributed to the team’s depth on the scoring chart. 

UNC had eight different scorers and 10 assisted goals on Wednesday, and these numbers speak to the offensive balance Levy boasts. She noted that good leadership, good spacing and selflessness are part of the way the Tar Heels like to play.

“I think it’s good to be uncomfortable and just get the flow, but I think a lot of great young players stepped up today,” Wurzburger said, naming three players who scored their first career goals – Kiley Mottice, Kaleigh Harden and Darcy Felter.

After graduating standout attackers like Jamie Ortega and Scottie Rose Growney, the team has had to adjust to new leadership on the field. Though still early in the season, Wurzburger’s two standout performances so far make clear that the team has players willing to step up. 

“I definitely have been really fortunate as a player to have been under such great fifth years, and All-Americans and just honestly great people to be around and lean on the past few years I've been here at Carolina,” Wurzburger said. "But I think we also have great leadership coming back… It's not really about how old you are, but the talent and the skill you have on the field.”

Levy said Wurzburger and junior attacker Reilly Casey, who tallied three goals and two assists against Liberty, have been great leaders this season, and have helped the younger players adjust to challenging game day situations.

With Liberty switching in and out of several defensive formations, UNC had the opportunity to figure out how to make necessary offensive shifts.

Levy admitted that the team threw the ball away and lacked poise early in the game, but she added that this required the team to work together to adjust and adapt. 

Although the Tar Heels sit at the top of the rankings, the team’s own standards are what drive their improvement.

“We don't really talk a lot about expectations bogging us down because I think the athletes that we have here welcome those challenges,” Levy said.

The No. 1 ranking motivates opposing teams — and that's exactly what UNC wants. 

“You always have a target on your back,” Wurzburger said. “I think pressure’s a privilege here at North Carolina, and I'm excited. I love thinking people can come in here and beat us. I love that feeling.”


@dthsports |

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