For the second consecutive year, North Carolina’s women’s lacrosse team has a shot at the third NCAA title in school history.
Last year, its trip did not go as planned. UNC lost to the eventual national champions James Madison 15-12 in the semifinals. Although that loss hurt, it served a source of motivation, UNC sophomore Jamie Ortega said earlier this month.
“Being so close to going so far and having an opportunity to win an NCAA Championship — obviously it didn’t go our way but I think it was a definitely a motivating factor to get back to where we were,” Ortega said, “and just to keep progressing and hopefully get back to the Final Four and try and claim the title.”
Since 1996 — UNC’s first season — the Tar Heels have made it to the NCAA tournament all but three times. This is the 11th time in school history that the Tar Heels are one of the final four teams standing.
In order to get to this point, UNC won the ACC tournament, then beat Florida 15-11 in the NCAA tournament’s second round, then No. 6 Virginia in the quarterfinal game. Ortega scored five goals in those two games, breaking a school record for most goals scored in a single season with 76.
On Friday, No. 3 UNC will face a familiar opponent in No. 2 Boston College, which has the nation’s top goal scorer in Sam Apuzzo. Apuzzo, who has scored 89 goals in 22 games this season, averages 4.05 goals per game.
Boston College and UNC have played each other twice this season, splitting the series. The Eagles won the first game in Chapel Hill 14-8, while the Tar Heels won in the ACC tournament in Chestnut Hill, Mass., 15-13.
UNC coach Jenny Levy said it will be another tough game.
“They just have so much experience all the way through their team,” Levy said. “They do the little things so well. They’re so explosive. And they really just attack you for 60 minutes during the game.”
If UNC were to beat Boston College, it would play the winner of No. 1 Maryland and No. 4 Northwestern in the title game on Sunday. But Levy said her team can’t look ahead.
“We just really focus on what we have in front of us,” Levy said. “I think you start talking about a national championship when you have earned the right to be in that game. Our focus overall is to stay humble, stay hungry and hardworking.”
UNC vs. Boston College
When: 5 p.m., Friday
Where: Homewood Field at Johns Hopkins, Baltimore