#LMRanks: No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels
|Can Abbey Friend help the Tar Heels repeat in 2014?|
Previous: No. 2 Maryland Terrapins
2013 Record: 18-3 (4-1 ACC)
Coach: Jenny Levy (18th year)
Record at North Carolina: 242-95
Draw Control: 3
A Abbey Friend (Sr.)
Friend had a great 2013 – she helped North Carolina and Team Canada to their best finishes in history (an NCAA championship and an FIL silver medal, respectively). Her sharp cuts and creative shooting make her an extremely tough mark for any defenders tasked with stopping the Tar Heels' top returning scorer.
M Maggie Bill (Fr.)
The graduation of Kara Cannizzaro, Jess Griffin and Emily Garrity and the loss of Brittney Coppa to an ACL tear at Champion Challenge means that the midfield is the spot most in need of a breakthrough performance. Could Bill be the one? The freshman has NCAA experience, albeit as a reserve forward on the Tar Heels' soccer team. She saw time in 12 soccer games, and North Carolina made it to the NCAA quarterfinals before falling to eventual champion UCLA.
2009 - NCAA Final
2010 - Final Four
2011 - Final Four
2012 - Quarterfinals
2013 - NCAA Champ
North Carolina has a 10-player freshman class that was ranked No. 1 by Inside Lacrosse that includes Bill, Nike/US Lacrosse National High School Player of the Year Carly Reed and Sydney Holman, the younger sister of Marcus Holman, the all-time career points leader for the Tar Heels men's team and a 2013 Tewaaraton finalist.
The defending national champs have a tough schedule, but they also have home field advantage for most of it. The Tar Heels will play only four road games in 2014. The road trips are to top-notch opponents, though: Virginia, Boston College, Northwestern and Syracuse.
Opposing Coaches on the Tar Heels
"Fast, fiesty, confident coming off a national championship year. Even with the loss of Cannizzaro, they have depth in all parts of the game."
"Defending champs are top team until proven otherwise. They have a lot of young talent returning and have finally gotten the 'can't win the big games' monkey off their backs. The attack and defense units return virtually intact, and we can expect their starting freshmen to step up their game as sophomores. The coaching staff is one of the hardest-working groups out there, and they also manage to stay humble enough to have the support of their peers come tournament time."
"As the reigning NCAA Champions, they are still riding that high. They lost a very strong senior class but as the championship game showed, it doesn't always take veterans to get the job done."
"Expect them to pick up where they left off. The incoming class should give them a good boost."
"How can you not vote for the defending national champion? They lost a lot in the midfield but are returning key defensive players, and as always have a ton of speed."
"Reigning champs. Enough said."
"Lots of young fire power returns along with a strong group of newcomers. They will battle to win a second straight title."
"If a few leaders can contribute more to make up for the loss of Cannizzaro, then I expect them to be back in the Final Four again."
"Tough and experienced. They got a taste of winning big and that will motivate them."
"The champs are the champs until someone else wins."
"After the 2013 championship run, I think they've figured out what they need to do and how they need to play in order to win."
"I think what made them special last year was that their best players were also their most experienced players. Graduating kids like Kara Cannizzaro and Lauren Maksym will be tough, but otherwise they return pretty much their whole group."
"They're always a team that puts together a very talented roster and strong performances out on the field. Coming off a national championship, they will be fired up to defend it. They have to replace Cannizzaro, but they return most of their defenders and goalie, and they return Abbey Friend. They're another one to watch."
"They're going to be excellent. We played them in the fall, and they have a lot of weapons. (Brittney) Coppa is just an unbelievable all-around player that really stepped up for them last year as a complement to Kara Cannizzaro. They're going to be great. We're very excited to play them in the regular season. We've had a great rivalry with them."
In a Nutshell: At the outset, it looked like another typical "always a bridesmaid" season for the Tar Heels. They beat whom you'd expect them to beat (Towson, Virginia, Georgetown) and had narrow losses to the clubhouse favorites to win the title (Florida and Maryland). They got a big, promising victory (defeating Northwestern 11-8 in the regular season) and then had a midseason misstep (flopped in the ACC championship game against the Terps). But then it all came together in the postseason, and North Carolina found the grit to blast through the first two rounds, stifle Northwestern in the semifinals and endure the longest NCAA championship game in history to down Maryland 13-12 in triple overtime on a Sammy Jo Tracy goal. The Tar Heels finally put a ring on it after 18 seasons and so many close calls.
High Point: North Carolina claimed its first championship in an instant classic game. The game-winner began with a 1-on-1 save by freshman goalie Meg Ward, who cleared the ball to junior midfielder Brittany Coppa, who passed the ball off to freshman Sammy Jo Tracy, who beat Maryland goalie Kacey Howard to bring home the Tar Heels' title in front of 9,300 fans at Villanova Stadium.
Low Point: North Carolina almost lost a midweek trap game to Cornell in late March. The Tar Heels trailed 10-7 in the second half, and needed a late-game rally to escape with an 11-10 win. Terrible first half shooting (six goals on 20 shots) almost tripped them up.
Best Case: The midfield coalesces quickly and the Tar Heels storm to a repeat championship. Senior attacker Abbey Friend becomes the first Canadian player, man or woman, to win the Tewaaraton Award.
Worst Case: Ward suffers a sophomore slump as she's scouted more and teams figure out how to beat her. The insane ACC super-conference is too much to handle, even for a team as good as the Tar Heels, and they enter the NCAA tournament with a low seed and get knocked out in an early-round upset.
Self-Scouting: Jenny Levy on...
Sloane Serpe: "She's probably a little bit more like Morgan Lathrop than Briane LoManto. She's very athletic, does some different things, takes some chances. She matured quite a bit in the fall. We're looking for her to continue to improve and if she does that, she'll do some nice things."
Sammy Jo Tracy: "She's a very good team defender as well as a good faceguard and I think she's got a lot of confidence from her participation in the last couple of years. We're definitely looking to her to give us more."
Lacrosse Magazine will continue its 2014 college lacrosse preview throughout January and into February, with team-by-team breakdowns of the top teams in NCAA Division I, II and III men's and women's lacrosse. Follow the countdown at LaxMagazine.com/LMRanks and on twitter at #LMRanks.