October 20, 2011

Fall Ball Brief

Zimmerman, North Carolina Motivated for More

by Chris Moore | LaxMagazine.com

"We made it to the final four and we've come up short," UNC co-captain Laura Zimmerman said. "It's honest when I say that we have a lot of motivation."

© Bryce Vickmark

The North Carolina women's lacrosse team has taken the practice field this fall trying to fill two holes from a year ago.

One is the 52 goals left on the table with the graduation of Corey Donohoe. The other? The hole left in the Tar Heel trophy case after UNC lost in the NCAA championship weekend for the third year in a row.

If the Tar Heels are going to fill the second one, they will need to find an answer for the latter first.

"It's going to take a group effort to fill what Corey did for us," coach Jenny Levy said. "She's a special player and a special kid, but I believe we do have the players to fill the points that we graduated."

The two players primed to have the biggest impact on the attack are Becky Lynch and Laura Zimmerman, who were both named co-captains this fall.

Lynch finished last season with 40 goals and a program-record 36 assists. Lynch also has the ability to dominate in the draw circle, another area Donohoe anchored in the past two seasons.

Zimmerman, who as a member of the U.S. national team, squared off against her Tar Heel teammates at the US Lacrosse Stars & Stripes event Oct. 8, scoring two goals in a Team USA 13-7 win, will look to become a force on the UNC attack earlier in the year this season.

Last season Zimmerman started the season with a hamstring injury. She redefined her role on the team, switching from midfield to attack, where she was the team's second-leading scorer with 43 goals.

But while the attack should be taken care of with experienced upperclassmen, fall practice has revealed the difficulties of graduating four starting defenders.

Those positions in the back will be filled primarily by sophomores and some freshmen that may challenge for a starting role. One freshman that has stood out to Levy is Caileigh Sindall.

Sindall played for the U.S. U-19 team in the world championships over the summer.

"She's fitting in really nicely with the system we run," Levy said. "She hasn't missed a beat transitioning in."

The focus for UNC this fall has been on the fundamentals of the game.

Levy said every year she and her staff are shocked how many players who are considered elite prospects don't have a good grasp on the basics of the game.

"The defensive end, stick work, transition play and just general shooting," Levy said. "A lot of these girls come in without being taught how to dodge, or shoot or use their sticks. There's a ton of work that needs to be done."

Players such as Abbey Friend, Emily Garrity and Margaret Corzel also return as starters and have stepped forward as leaders-by-example early in fall practice.

Levy said she has never had a team that was as well-rounded with every returner setting strong examples for a talented freshman class.

Zimmerman feels confident that the Tar Heels are focused enough to nail down the basics to start their quest as another title contender.

But more importantly, she said the attitude already shown this fall gives better signs for the team's success.

"We made it to the final four and we've come up short," Zimmerman said. "It's honest when I say that we have a lot of motivation.

"We have a lot of heart and hustle and that's what we push every day. I think between those three, those are our biggest strengths this year."

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