UNC women earn home field advantage
CHAPEL HILL – The North Carolina women’s lacrosse team has a familiar seed Sunday as it seeks its first national championship. The Tar Heels (14-3) received the No. 3 seed for the fourth time in five years and will face either High Point (10-8) or Loyola (10-8) Sunday at 1 p.m. at Fetzer Field.
Duke received its 16th consecutive NCAA Tournament bid although the Blue Devils (12-5) didn’t get as favorable a seed as the Tar Heels.
Duke faces a first-round game Friday against Princeton (10-6) in a game 7:15 p.m. played at Navy in Annapolis, Md. Navy (18-1), seeded No. 8 nationally, plays Monmouth (13-6) as part of Friday’s doubleheader
The winners play Sunday at noon at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium.
As a top 4 seed, UNC earned the right to play at home all the way through to the semifinal round. It has made the semifinals from 2009-11 as the third seed, but when the Tar Heels were the No. 5 seed last year, it lost a one-goal game at No. 4 Syracuse.
“An opportunity to play for a national championship is one of our goals each year,” UNC coach Jenny Levy said. “And the first part of that is obviously winning a bid to the tournament and another one of our goals it try to get a top 4 seed.” The Tar Heels are 11-3 against tournament teams this season, including wins over No. 2 Northwestern and No. 6 Georgetown. Their only losses were against undefeated and top-seeded Maryland (twice) and No. 5 Florida.
UNC is making its ninth straight NCAA appearance. Its best result was a runner-up finish in 2009.
“I’m really excited for my team, they’ve worked hard this season, and it doesn’t mean anything now,” Levy said. “The most important thing is our Sunday game.”
UNC won at High Point 15-6 two months ago and has not faced Loyola.
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Those teams will meet Friday at 5 p.m. at Fetzer in a first-round game.
Levy said the team has a great week of practice since losing the ACC tournament final to Maryland last Sunday at Fetzer.
“We went after it and we demanded a lot of the kids in a great way and they responded really well,” Levy said. “It’s kind of like Orb (the Kentucky Derby winner). The jockey said, ‘I was hanging in the outside lane and when I asked him to go, he was just waiting for me to ask.’ “I kind of feel like my team’s a little bit the same way – just waiting for us to ask, and they’ll get to it. We’ve pushed them hard all year and we’ll continue to push them hard.”
Friday will mark the second time Duke and Princeton have met in the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers beat Duke 9-8 in the 2000 quarterfinals.
This year’s Blue Devils are led by senior Makenzie Hommel, who has scored a team-best 44 goals. But Hommel hasn't played since suffering a concussion in the ACC Tournament. She has not yet been cleared to play in the NCAA Tournament.
Sophomore Kerrin Maurer has totaled a team-high 59 points on 32 goals and 27 assists, while freshman Kelci Smesko has recorded 42 points on 26 goals and 16 assists. The team’s lineup features five players with 20 or more points.
Playing without Hommel, Duke closed its regular season Sunday with an 18-9 win over Boston University at Koskinen Stadium. That was the first game the Blue Devils had played since losing 10-7 to Virginia in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals at UNC’s Fetzer Field on April 25.
Five Duke players were named all-ACC this season, with sophomore Taylor Trimble joining Hommel, Maurer, freshman goalkeeper Kelsey Duryea and junior Taylor Virden on the team.
Under head coach Kerstin Kimel, the Blue Devils have won eight consecutive NCAA Tournament first-round games. Duke reached the tournament quarterfinals last season.