The North Carolina women's lacrosse team will look to continue its hot start to the season on Saturday, when the Tar Heels take on No. 9 Virginia in a marquee matchup at Dorrance Field.
The Tar Heels came away with their most impressive win of the season last Friday in a 16-5 thrashing over No. 4 Boston College. The 2022 national championship rematch was hardly a challenge for UNC, as the team jumped out to a big lead in the first half and never looked back.
In its third game in ACC play, UNC is in the midst of one of its most difficult stretches of its 2023 schedule. Virginia is 6-0 for the first time since 2007 and recently defeated Elon, 18-12, on the road.
Jaime Biskup and Kate Miller led the Cavaliers to the win over the Phoenix. Biskup had four goals and an assist while Miller scored three of her own and tallied three assists to record a career-high six points.
With both teams fighting to maintain their undefeated records, here are two keys for the Tar Heels to bring home a victory on Saturday:
Slowing down Virginia's attack
UNC has consistently held teams to low scores with its stifling defense. No team has reached double digits against the Tar Heels thus far, and the team's scoring defense ranks third in the nation with just 6.2 goals allowed per game.
This defensive effort has been maintained thanks to the contributions of sophomore goalkeeper Alecia Nicholas, who has recorded 47 saves with a .603 save percentage. She has been tasked with filling in the footsteps of longtime goalkeeper Taylor Moreno this season, and the early results have been promising.
On the flip side, the Cavaliers have proven to have an explosive offense and have not scored fewer than 14 goals in a game this season. All-ACC First Team selection Ashlyn McGovern has proven to be one of the most dynamic scoring threats in the nation, as she has already notched 24 goals in six games. Rachel Clark has also been productive, totaling 23 goals and six assists.
With something needing to give, Saturday will be a formidable test for both units in the critical clash.
Rely on stars, use depth on offense
While the Cavaliers have been lauded for their scoring, their defense has also been a tough group to break down.
Virginia's Ashley Vernon has been successful inside the crease this season. Vernon had 11 saves against Clemson earlier in the year and has not allowed more than 12 goals in a game.
The team's back line is led by graduate transfer Annika Meyer, who has been one of the best defensive players in the country over the past several years. The Johns Hopkins transfer is a two time All-Big Ten selection and spent time on the Tewaarton Award Watch List last season.
For UNC to break down the Cavaliers defense, the Tar Heels will need to rely on junior attackers Reilly Casey and Caitlyn Wurzburger.
Despite having a limited role last year, Casey has taken a big jump in her second season in Chapel Hill by leading the team in goals and assists with 10 and 13, respectively. Wurzburger has continued her prolific career by notching 10 goals and nine assists in just four games.
The team‘s offensive depth has also been on display, as the Tar Heels had seven different players score in the first half against Boston College. Getting contributions throughout the lineup has been effective, and continuing this trend could be critical once again.
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