#LMranks: No. 5 North Carolina Tar Heels (Women)
Kara Cannizzaro is a versatile two-way midfielder,
racking up 52 points, 23 caused turnovers and 26 ground balls in
Lacrosse Magazine is counting down its preseason rankings throughout the month of January exclusively on LaxMagazine.com.
Today continues a look at our NCAA Division I Top 20 rankings. For more, visit LaxMagazine.com/LMranks. Follow @LacrosseMag on Twitter and Tweet using the hashtag #LMranks. The countdown will resume Tuesday with profiles of the fourth-ranked teams in NCAA Division I men and women.
Draw Control: 3
* Out of 5
A Abbey Friend (Jr.)
Friend will lead a young UNC offense after scoring 52 goals and dishing out eight assists last season as a sophomore. Watch for Friend to take command of the attack as it looks to prove itself as an offensive threat early in the season.
M Kara Cannizzaro (Sr.)
Cannizzaro provides major depth in the midfield for UNC, being so versatile on both sides of the ball. She ended the 2012 season with 52 points, 23 caused turnovers and 26 ground balls, showing her ability to be a goal scorer as well as an aggressive takeaway defender.
North Carolina coach Jenny Levy said freshman lefty attacker Aly Messinger from West Mendham, N.J., is one to look out for this season, and will definitely make her way on opponent's scouting reports, even early in the season.
This will be head coach Jenny Levy's 18th season leading the Tar Heels. She's the only women's lacrosse coach in UNC history, and the team is looking to win their first national championship.
#LMranks WD1 Preseason Countdown
No. 20 Princeton
Record: 15-4 (5-0 ACC)
In a Nutshell: UNC's largely successful season, led by senior scoring duo Laura Zimmerman and Becky Lynch (120 points combined), came to an end in the NCAA quarterfinals. The Tar Heels went 13-2 leading up to the ACC tournament, including sweeping the ACC regular season 5-0. This feat has only been done two other times as long as there have been six teams in the ACC, and both times were by Maryland in 2009 and 2011. As the fifth seed in the NCAA tournament, North Carolina cruised by Navy, 14-7, in the first round before matching up with Gary Gait's Syracuse Orange. UNC lost a 17-16 overtime thriller.
High Point: "Going 5-0 in the ACC regular season was definitely the high point for us," Levy said. "I don't know the last time someone has done that." Levy said UNC's young and inexperienced defense left questions in her mind heading into the season. "We had to figure out a way to put together a great unit on the defensive field, and we did," Levy said.
Low Point: Levy said in 2012 there were five really good teams in the country, and a loss to Georgetown late in the season did not position UNC well for the NCAA tournament. "I said to my staff, whoever gets that 4-5 game, it's going to be a bloodbath. Home field advantage may be the edge," she said. UNC received the fifth seed in the tournament and drew Syracuse at the Carrier Dome in the NCAA quarterfinals. "The low point was not returning to the final four," Levy said. "It was a hard loss definitely."
Best Case: UNC sweeps the ACC regular-season for the second straight year, and positions themselves to have home-field advantage in the NCAA tournament. The Tar Heels reach the final four. The addition of Katrina Dowd to the Carolina staff pays off in a big way and Cannizzaro continues to prove she's a two-way threat.
Worst Case: The offense sputters due to graduating their top two attackers. If a few young players and upperclassmen cannot step up and fill the shoes of Zimmerman and Lynch, this could become a reality for UNC. The Tar Heels don't win the ACC and can't get past the quarterfinals again.
Rival Coaches Say
"North Carolina is going to be really athletic. They've got a tough mindset. They really do I think believe they are better than everybody else. Sometimes it can be in an arrogant way, and sometimes it can get in their way a little bit. But I think they are good. They are strong. They are complete. They are going to be hungry. I know they feel frustrated with last year and how it ended, and I bet you they come hungrier than ever... I laugh because I think, "They're going to graduate a big class, and maybe have an off year." That never happens with Carolina. I'm waiting for the drop-off but year in and year out, they're getting great recruits and they're just reloading...
"You think you can contain them and they come out and they don't have just five athletic kids. Every kid on the field is athletic. Kara Cannizzaro, we could stick our best defender on her and she's always going to score. You have to chalk up the fact that you're never going to shut that kid down. And then you turn around and there are six other kids on the attack who are just as talented. They're just a super-talented team. The addition of Katrina Dowd on that staff – they already had a super-strong staff and adding her to the mix, they've got the wow factor. Plus they have Sloane Serpe on defense and Lauren Maksym in the cage. She's really experienced in goal. And they have a solid midfield core. That's a team that I expect big things out of. They're going to be amazing this year.
"The biggest thing that sticks out to me with UNC is that even though they graduated some key players in Zimmerman and Lynch, I still think they return a lot. They return their goalkeeper and they return a couple of key midfielders like [Kara] Cannizzarro. So, I think that to me, they're poised to be a contender this year given that they didn't graduate very much even though I think it will be an adjustment without Becky Lynch controlling the crease and without Zimmerman running the midfield."