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Women’s Lacrosse Final Four: Previewing UNC with The Daily Tar Heel’s Noah Monroe

2019 NCAA Division I Women’s Lacrosse Championship - Semifinals Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Boston College women’s lacrosse is headed back to the Final Four. On Friday at noon, they will take on the #1-ranked, undefeated UNC Tar Heels - a team that beat them 21-9 earlier this season. The two teams have developed a bit of a postseason rivalry in recent years, with UNC nipping BC for the ACC title in 2019, before the Eagles returned the favor and knocked the Tar Heels out of the Frozen Final Four.

To preview the Tar Heels, we asked some questions of Noah Monroe, who covers UNC lacrosse for The Daily Tar Heel at UNC.

1. UNC is always good, but this year they seem to be next-level, largely dominating opponents every week and putting up some ghastly scorelines, like their 22-1 win over Virginia Tech. What’s made this particular team so good, even compared to previous editions?

Noah Monroe: This UNC team is so good due to the NCAA granting an extra year of eligibility. That extra year allowed UNC to bring back Katie Hoeg and Caroline Wakefield, as well grab graduate transfers like Kerrigan Miller and Katie Borque (although she hasn’t played a lot this year due to an injury).

In addition, being able to bring back everyone allowed for more team chemistry, more meshing of everyone’s play styles. You look at every aspect of the team and the attack is so good that the #1 recruit in the class of 2020 in Caitlyn Wurzburger isn’t even starting. The defense arguably has two of the best defensive players in the nation in Emma Trenchard and goalkeeper Taylor Moreno. Overall, it’s just a really deep and experienced team that has made UNC so good.

2. In the NCAA tournament, though, the games have been a little bit closer (relatively speaking, anyway). To what do you attribute Stony Brook and JMU being able to hang with UNC a bit compared to ACC competition?

Noah Monroe: Both JMU and Stony Brook got a look for themselves at UNC in the regular season, which might have helped them plan a little bit better than other teams would have been. Stony Brook’s head coach is also an assistant coach on the US team with Jenny Levy so he knows her play style and possibly plays better than most so that was a potential advantage for Stony Brook. Also, as UNC has won more games, the target on their back has grown bigger and bigger, and in the NCAA Tournament, that target is going to be at its largest and teams are going to go all out.

Also in those two games, free position shots for the Tar Heels were going anywhere but in the goal. The inefficiency at the 8m line kept the Tar Heels from maybe starting a run or pulling away from those two teams but a few more goals.

3. In terms of game pace and style, what does the game look like if UNC is dictating play and on their game?

Noah Monroe: When UNC is dictating play, I see it as two different paces, depending on how where they get the ball. When they get the ball from the defensive end, it’s a fast-paced kind of game. When they get a defensive stop, they immediately go on a fast break and look for a cutting player on the crease or someone with a good look at the goal.

Usually when they don’t get that, it leads into the second type of pace I see from them. The game slows down on the offensive end and they cut in and out of the 8m arc, looking for an open player. They can really play both fast and slow, but they aren’t ones to run out the shot clock. It seems like they’re looking for a shot chance and usually those chances lead to goals.

4. Are there any weak spots in this team at all or is looking for one a fool’s errand?

Noah Monroe: The way I see it, there are no weak spots in this team, but there are trends in games which lead to UNC having close games. The first trend I’ve seen is an evenly matched or a draw control that is in the opposing team’s favor. Ally Mastroianni is a great draw control player and usually will get them the ball of the draw but there’s times where the opposing player on the draw is just as good. UNC relies on getting lots of possessions off the draw to be able to score goals.

I saw it in the Stony Brook game where they weren’t winning the draws and that Stony Brook’s offense was capitalizing on winning those draws and scoring, which made it a close game.

In the Duke game in the regular season, they lost the draw 17-6 in that game, which gave UNC fits and as a result nearly lost the game.

Also, and I kind of already talked about it, inefficiency from the 8m line with free position shots. In the JMU game, they were 3-9 on free position shots in a 14-9 game which was closer than the score showed, and the same story in the Stony Brook game going 0-3 in the first half on free positions.

Also, look at the Notre Dame and Duke games in the regular season where they were 4-10 and 1-7 on FPS respectively. If they don’t capitalize on their chances, the opposing team will get the chance to have a shot at beating UNC.

5. Any other thoughts about this matchup? These teams played two great games in 2019, do you expect another classic or is UNC just that much better than the ‘19 edition that you’d expect them to roll here?

Noah Monroe: You saw in the regular season UNC beating this BC team 21-9, but I don’t expect the result to be as one-sided. I think it’ll be a closer game than what happened the first time they met, but I just can’t see BC beating what looks like an unbeatable UNC team. In the Duke game I didn’t think they would win, but they did. In the Stony Brook game, the same thing. Whenever they don’t look to be able to pull it out, they do. I think Jenny Levy is going to shape her team up to make her sweat a little bit less than the previous NCAA Tournament games they’ve had.

Here’s a link to my story that I wrote on UNC’s win against Stony Brook:

In it, there are three quotes that I think really illustrate the family atmosphere that UNC women’s lacrosse has and the mindset of the team.

“We were down by two and found a way to score the last five goals,” head coach Jenny Levy said. “That is leadership, but that’s also trust. It’s also love. You gotta love each other and play hard for each other.”

“Everyone is going to play their best game against us. Nobody really likes us, everyone wants to beat us, we knew it was going to be a tough game,” senior attacker Jamie Ortega said. “Every team is going to play their best game. They played scrappy and gritty and really tested us.”

“I’m excited to keep playing with (Hoeg), I’m not done yet with her and the other seniors,” Ortega said. “I’m just happy to be able (to) have another opportunity with all the seniors and that was definitely going through my head the whole game.”

Thanks to Noah Monroe for taking time to help preview Friday’s matchup. You can watch the Final Four game on Friday at 12:00 PM ET on ESPNU. Go Eagles!