You Haven’t Noticed it, but North Carolina is Really Good at Lacrosse
North Carolina has both its men’s and women’s teams in the Top 10 of the same sport. And no, it’s not basketball.
The Tar Heel lacrosse teams are having another stellar spring, and it’s time to give them the credit they’re overdue. In a Fetzer Field double-header on Saturday, the fourth-ranked men took down second-ranked Syracuse in a 17-15 nailbiter, and the second-ranked women blew out the sixth-ranked Orange women, 15-8. The win over Syracuse was the third straight victory for the men against top-10 opponents, a streak that includes wins over Virginia on the road and Duke in Chapel Hill. The win also clinched an undefeated season for the men at home, and sets them up for a season finale in South Bend against top-ranked Notre Dame. For the women, Saturday’s win was their fifth victory in a row, and sets them up for a finale across Tobacco Road against another top-ten opponent, Duke. The only two games the Tar Heels have lost this season were by a combined three goals. So, how are these teams so good?
On the men’s side, Jimmy Bitter and Joey Sankey have led the team offensively. Bitter is leading the team in scoring, averaging 5 points per game. Sankey follows Bitter with 4.38 points per game, and just became the all-time leading scorer in North Carolina history. These two power a Tar Heel offense that averages 14.92 points per game, the fifth-best mark in the country. This is a team that looks to outscore you, which sounds like, well, every team on North Carolina’s campus.
For the women, it’s been a more balanced effort, and it will have to be that way going into the NCAA Tournament. Molly Hendrick leads the team in scoring for the season, but she tore her ACL last week in a game against Louisville. In her absence, the Tar Heels will have to look to the trio of Sammy Jo Tracy, Aly Messinger and Sydney Holman to power the offense. Holman is the team’s best distributor, with 15 assists on the season, and Tracy leads active Tar Heels in goal-scoring, tallying 2 goals per game.
(Just for fun, Tracy is also the scorer of one of the most important goals in Carolina history):
This is our first lacrosse post ever at the Depot, but given the performance of both teams, that needs to change. North Carolina is an elite lacrosse program, and the teams are due far more coverage than they’re given. It’s not as popular as football or basketball, and casual fans may not understand the rules, but if you’ve been watching these teams this spring, it’s hard not to become enamored by the product on the field. They play fast, they score a ridiculous amount of goals, and they’re led by two tremendous head coaches in Joe Breschi (men’s) and Jenny Levy (women’s).
These teams are entering the final weekend of the regular season, again playing top-10 opponents, and will play in their respective ACC Tournaments in Chester, Pennsylvania (men’s) and Charlottesville, Virginia (women’s). If there was ever a time to pay attention to Carolina lacrosse, it’s now. It’s not implausible to see two more titles come to the University of National Champions.
Photo courtesy of Spencer Herlong (@TarHeelPhoto). Video courtesy of UNC New Media.