By R.L. Bynum
CHAPEL HILL — What does domination look like? That was on display as North Carolina’s top-ranked and No. 1-seed women’s lacrosse team overwhelmed No. 15-ranked Virginia in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
After falling behind in their last two ACC Tournament games, the unbeaten Tar Heels, who got a first-round bye, took charge early Sunday and left little doubt.
Carolina scored the game’s first 13 goals and the last 11, dominating draws early in a 24–2 victory at Dorrance Field behind senior attacker Jamie Ortega’s four goals and five assists. That was the most goals in an NCAA tournament game in program history and tied the record for the most in any game.
UNC (19–0) advanced to a home quarterfinals matchup Thursday against No. 8-ranked Stony Brook (16–2) at 7:30 p.m. (ESPNU), which advanced with an 11–7 Sunday win over Rutgers. The Tar Heels, who are a win away from their 10th Final Four appearance in 13 seasons and fourth in a row, beat the Seawolves 14–11 in last year’s quarterfinals.
The Tar Heels dominated possession early in the game to the level that Coach Jenny Levy hadn’t seen all season.
“It’s something we’ve been talking about and working on, really wanting to come out and play a little bit cleaner early in the games,” said Levy, whose teams have won 46 of their last 47 games and 54 of their last 56. “Something we’ve been working on in practice. So it’s definitely been a priority for us and really happy to see it this time of the year.”
Only the running clock that kicked in after the Tar Heels’ 10th goal early in the second period could slow Carolina’s offensive assault. They won by the biggest scoring margin in program history in their school-record 32nd consecutive home victory.
“I’m just really happy with how our team started the game today,” Levy said. “Just really taking care of business early just to give our defense enough of a cushion. We always take a little time to adjust on the defensive end, but then our guys on the defense did a great job. Our one-on-one defense was really good. I thought just from front to back, and then the opportunity to play everybody was awesome.”
The two goals were Virginia’s fewest this season, with the previous low mark set in UNC’s 17–7 regular-season win at Charlottesville. UNC’s record for goals in an NCAA tournament game beat the previous mark of 23 set five years ago against the Cavaliers.
Ortega (top photo) never expected her team would dominate Virginia at that level.
“No, not at all. I think we were focusing more on ourselves and coming out stronger, especially after playing Boston,” Ortega said of the ACC Tournament championship game when Boston College took a three-goal second-quarter lead before UNC won 16–9 for its sixth consecutive ACC tournament title.
“We kind of came out slower, a little bit sloppier and we just really emphasized this week in practice being on the same page, communicating,” said Ortega, who has at least one point in 82 consecutive games. “We were just really excited to get out there and play and everything was falling into place — the goals, the draws, the defense was making unbelievable stops. It just kind of fell our way and then that momentum and that energy just kept going and there was no way stopping it.”
It took UNC only 2½ minutes to take a 3–0 lead on goals by Sam Geiersbach, Ortega and Ally Mastroianni, and the Tar Heels were rolling before Virginia finally got its first shot four minutes into the game. Two Andie Aldave goals and one from Nicole Humphrey goals made it 6–0 before the first quarter was halfway done.
“It’s definitely something that we’ve been working on as a team to just kind of get that momentum right away,” said Mastroianni, a graduate midfielder who had three goals and an assist. “And I think a lot of that starts with the draw and my circle team was amazing today. We really found a way to dominate.”
Scores from Scottie Rose Growney, Aldave and Caitlyn Wurzburger (short-handed) pushed the lead to 9–0. Wurtzburger already had a career-high five assists (she finished with six) by the end of the first quarter.
For Levy, a Virginia alum, the margin of victory wasn’t as important to her as the way her team played.
“I honestly just wanted to play in the moment and have our guys make adjustments that they needed to make. I try not to think about results,” Levy said. “As a coach, I think about what type of adjustments I can make and how to help our players be the best that they can be during the game.”
After Mastroianni’s early second-quarter goal made it 10–0, the game continued with a running clock. The Heels led 13–2 at halftime with a 14–4 shot edge after two more Ortega goals and a Tayler Warehime goal. The Cavaliers got their only scores in the last three minutes of the first half on two MacKenzie Hoeg goals.
UNC kept rolling in the third quarter with two Growney goals and scores from Mastroianni, Ortega and Geiersbach to shove the lead to 18–2.
Carolina goaltender Taylor Moreno (67–6 for her career) had four saves before giving way to Alecia Nicholas early in the fourth quarter and then Stella Harrison as Levy substituted liberally. Carolina added scores from Reilly Casey, Amanda Fedor, Oliva Dirks, Livi Lawton and Amelia Sheehan.
Virginia (10–10) advanced to Sunday’s game with a 13–11 Friday win in Chapel Hill over Southern Cal.
As is being done for every tournament game, every player on both teams held up their sticks for a moment of solidarity with the Delaware State team after the first goal of the game. The mostly Black team was on a bus trip home from a game when it was stopped and searched by authorities.
No. 1 UNC 24, No. 15 Virginia 2
Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics Communications