UNC women's lacrosse dominates Liberty in home opener

UNC women's lacrosse dominates Liberty in home opener

Coming off a two-game road trip, one that saw the No. 7 North Carolina women's lacrosse team begin the season 1-1, there was a feeling that the Tar Heels hadn’t yet showed the offensive potential that had led them to be pegged as the third-best team in the nation to start the year. While 28 goals in two games was not a bad statistical output, there was a sense that Carolina could score even more if it played a cleaner game.

It didn’t take long for those feelings to become reality in the home opener.

Jamie Ortega (3) fires a shot on goal against the Liberty defense. The star freshman had five goals against the Flames on Sunday. | Photo by Caleb Jones

Jamie Ortega (3) fires a shot on goal against the Liberty defense. The star freshman had five goals against the Flames on Sunday. | Photo by Caleb Jones

Playing in Kenan Stadium while their longtime home Fetzer Field undergoes renovations, the Tar Heels (2-1) blasted Liberty to the tune of 23-4 behind seven goals from senior Marie McCool and five goals from star freshman Jamie Ortega. Carolina dominated from the start, at one point scoring 17 consecutive goals and leading by as many as 20 goals. Eight different players found the net in the win, several times scoring within seconds of gaining possession.

Carolina wasted no time putting the game far out of reach, holding a 15-1 edge at halftime behind six McCool goals. She ended up tying her career high with seven goals, one away from tying the school record of eight set in 2002. Additionally, Carolina as a team was one goal away from tying the record for goals scored in a game, 24, a number reached twice before and most recently in 2014.

In a nearly historic way, the Tar Heel offense fixed some of the problems that had been plaguing them to begin the season.

Marie McCool (4) prepares to launch an attack for the Tar Heels. The senior midfielder matched her career high with seven goals against the Flames. | Photo by Caleb Jones

Marie McCool (4) prepares to launch an attack for the Tar Heels. The senior midfielder matched her career high with seven goals against the Flames. | Photo by Caleb Jones

Against Liberty, Carolina outshot the Flames, 38-8, dominating control of the ball and continuing to press against an overmatched defense. The Tar Heels had just seven turnovers to Liberty’s 13 and won 20 of the game’s 28 draws. In comparison, Carolina only outshot High Point 28-22 in its previous win and was actually outshot by James Madison in a season-opening loss on Feb. 10.

The Tar Heels turned it over 20 times against High Point and 14 times against JMU, both times committing more turnovers than their opponents, and saw JMU secure 18 draws against just 15 for Carolina.

On Sunday, by winning the turnover battle and tightening up the other aspects of their offense, the Tar Heels were able to break out in a near historic way in their second win of the season.

Up next, the Tar Heels host Maryland, the top-ranked team in the country and the team UNC beat in the 2016 NCAA Championship final. If the Tar Heels can continue to produce at the level they did against Liberty, the Terrapins will have their hands full stopping this potent North Carolina offense.

Header photo by Caleb Jones