February 15, 2012

Season Preview (WD1): No. 3 North Carolina

by Matt Forman | LaxMagazine.com

Midfielder Kara Cannizzaro came up big with four goals in the Tar Heels' 11-9 win over Florida last Saturday.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com 

North Carolina shot 5-for-20 on what Tar Heels head coach Jenny Levy termed "high-percentage" opportunities against Northwestern in the first half of their 11-10 NCAA semifinal loss. The takeaway? They need a new toughness level.

"If you do what you've always done then you're going to get what you've always got, so [toughness] was one thing we thought we could do a better job at," Levy said.

"If anybody came to practice they would think that we are all crazy people, because we're so intense and it gets pretty nuts," Lynch said.

Levy and Lynch stressed North Carolina's approach is not specific to its opponents, but rather an emphasis on what steps they can take to "get over the final hump." Still, it's hard to ignore that Northwestern has eliminated the Tar Heels from the postseason for three consecutive years.

The expectations are understandably high in Chapel Hill despite losing two-time first-team All-American Corey Donohoe, who set the school's single-season and career records for goals and points. The Tar Heels return eight of their top 10 scorers, including Lynch (40 goals, 36 assists), All-American midfielder Laura Zimmerman (43g, 15a), junior midfielder Kara Cannizzaro (35g, 13a) and sophomore midfielder Abbey Friend (34g, 13a). Zimmerman could see more time at attack this year, while two-time US Lacrosse high school All-American Kelly Devlin will bolster the Tar Heels' midfield depth.

On the other end, departed defenders Taylor Chumney, Katy Fitzgerald and Mia Hurrin leave North Carolina's close defense inexperienced, though sophomore Sloane Serpe should help ease the transition. The unit has spent time on fundamentals of one-on-one and off-ball defense. Freshman defender Caileigh Sindall, a U.S. U19 team All-World star, will contribute, while defensive midfielders Brittney Coppa, Jess Griffin and Beth Ellis stood out during fall ball.

"The good thing about defense is that you can set your system and coach it, and it's pretty black-and-white," Levy said. "It's not as creative and difficult to replace."

Having junior goalkeeper Lauren Maksym return between the pipes also should provide a strong last line of defense. Maksym, who admirably filled the shoes of two-time All- American Logan Ripley, posted a .472 save percentage last year and figures to gain confidence in her second season as the starter.

This article appears in the February issue of Lacrosse Magazine, the flagship publication of US Lacrosse. Join US Lacrosse and its 400,000-plus members today to start your subscription to LM. Follow LaxMagazine.com all season long, and check out the Tar Heels' team page.

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