Although surrounded by less hype and fanfare than their more famous basketball and football counterparts, UNC’s spring sports teams excel at the highest level year in and year out. 2015 is shaping up to be no exception.
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It’s the rackets and sticks that have been making the loudest noise in Chapel Hill these days.
Out on the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center courts, the Tar Heels are serving up a storm that is led by the ladies.
The No. 2 UNC women are fresh off an indoor national championship title and are now looking to sweep through the outdoor season. The Tar Heels are unblemished to date, sporting a 23-0 record overall and an 11-0 mark in ACC action.
Led by top 20 national singles players in sophomore duo Jamie Loeb and Hayley Carter, head coach Brian Kalbas’ players are an imposing force to look at across the net.
Coach Kalbas recently eclipsed the 500-win mark in his career, but he credits the talent on the court for achieving that milestone.
“When you win that many matches, it’s because you have good players. They play well and make you look good,” Coach Kalbas says.
Loeb won an individual national title in her maiden season at Carolina, but has been met with more resistance in her second season. Tennis can be a streaky sport.
Coach Kalbas breaks down the strategy in one of Loeb’s most recent tough battles.
“Anytime the girl hit a really good shot, Jamie would cut it off and force her to hit another great shot. The girl wasn’t coming to the net very much. If Jamie would handle her pace, push her back and get on the offense herself, which she started to do in the second and third set – it was really impressive,” Coach Kalbas says.
As for the Tar Heel men, they’ve gone on more of an up-and-down ride this spring. Saddled with a 16-8 record and 5-3 mark in league play, UNC’s No. 2 singles player Ronnie Schneider says the key to postseason success will be getting all the Tar Heels back fully healthy.
“Our health is probably the most important thing for our team right now. When we put guys on the court, they’re playing well. It’s just that we’ve got to get our top six guys healthy. If we can get healthy now, by the time those two tournaments [ACC and NCAA] hit, we’ll be playing our best tennis,” Schneider says.
Out on the lacrosse field, head coach Joe Breschi has to be pleased with his men’s team thus far. The Tar Heels check in at No. 4 in the national polls and are coming off an impressive road win over No. 6 Virginia in Charlottesville.
Senior Jimmy Bitter, who scored two goals in the win over the Wahoos, says the composure of goalkeeper Kieran Burke gives UNC added confidence.
“Kieran Burke is an amazing goalie. No matter what point in the game it is, he’s always level-headed,” Bitter says.
Not to be outdone, the Tar Heel women’s lacrosse team is ranked No. 2 nationally and in search of a national title of their own this spring.
In UNC’s most recent win over fellow top-ten member Louisville, Molly Hendrick netted a career-high five goals to spur on the 18-5 rout of the Cardinals.
So the trees and bushes aren’t the only thing blossoming around Chapel Hill right now – so too are the national championship aspirations of Tar Heels on the tennis courts and lacrosse fields.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/tar-heel-tennis-lacrosse-blossoming-this-spring/
All eyes are generally fixed on the basketball hardwood this time of year in Chapel Hill, but a litany of other top-notch UNC sports programs are gearing up for their own chances at ACC and national glory.
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The No. 4 UNC women’s tennis team started off its dual match campaign with a pair of victories over in-state foes.
Last weekend, the Tar Heels decisively served past both Elon and Appalachian State, dropping only one match in the process.
The Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center will play host to one of the nation’s top players. Sophomore Jamie Loeb, currently ranked No. 8 in the nation in singles, spent much of her freshman year sitting atop the rankings after a superb 53-4 season individually.
After falling just short of a national championship in Athens, Georgia a year ago, the Tar Heels, armed with a deep and talented lineup that also includes No. 22 Caroline Price and No. 31 Hayley Carter, could go one better in 2015.
Head coach Brian Kalbas’ Carolina squad will return to action on Jan. 24-25 to face Minnesota and Boston College or LSU.
As for their male counterparts, they’ll be aiming for big things this year as well. The Tar Heel men start off their campaign in the No. 6 position nationally in the preseason rankings released just last week.
UNC returns five starters from last year’s record-breaking team that reached the NCAA quarterfinals. In addition, Carolina also welcomes back senior Esben Hess-Oleson, who sat out last season with an injury, but made significant contributions in previous years.
The Tar Heels return to the courts to open their regular season with home doubleheaders on Jan. 16 and 19.
On the lacrosse field, UNC will yet again be among the nation’s best.
The women’s team begins the year No. 2 in the preseason polls and leads a loaded field in the ACC with five league schools represented in the top seven of the rankings.
With a national championship the goal, it appears the Tar Heels may actually have the talent to do it, with ten UNC women earning spots on the 2015 Face-Off Yearbook preseason All-America team, published by Inside Lacrosse.
As for the men’s lacrosse squad, they check in a few notches lower than the women, but not by much. The Tar Heels were voted as the sixth-best team in the NCAA by the nation’s coaches.
But Carolina will get its chance to prove if it should be placed higher with games against all of the top five-ranked teams looming on its schedule.
Coach Joe Breschi’s team opens its season Feb. 7 at home against Furman.
Although overshadowed by their more famous classmates on the basketball court, at a place like UNC, every sports program seemingly shares the same collective goal – to win a national championship.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/overshadowed-spring-sports-share-lofty-goals/
North Carolina women’s lacrosse is gearing up for another successful season with an exhibition game against Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, M.D. Saturday.
Carolina finished its season with a heartbreaking 10-9 loss to then sixth-seeded Virginia Cavaliers in the quarterfinals of the NCAA National Tournament.
The Heels are looking forward to their 2014-2015 campaign, as the team boasts the 4th best signing class which includes eight freshmen and a transfer sophomore.
“We are looking forward to the start of our fall practice,” says head coach Jenny Levy. “We have a lot of talent and experience returning and new players who I feel will be able to contribute right away. The energy, focus and competitiveness of our practice environment will be top-notch. The way our season ended last year stung and I know we will all use it as a motivating factor all year.”
The newcomers will join a cast of nine returning starters who hope to carry North Carolina to its second NCAA championship in the last three seasons in 2015.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/womens-lax-looks-ahead-championship-year/
WASHINGTON – Eight current or former University of North Carolina lacrosse players have made the U.S. Women’s National Team, more than any school in the nation. US Lacrosse released the 38-player roster for its 2014-15 team on Sunday after a three-day tryout held at Georgetown University.
The eight Tar Heels on the roster are attacker Becky Lynch (UNC class of 2012), midfielders Maggie Bill (2017), Emily Garrity (2013) and Laura Zimmerman (2012), defenders Jenn Russell (2010), Sloane Serpe (2014) and Courtney Waite (2015) and goalie Caylee Waters (2017).
Players were selected from an 81-player invite-only tryout pool, and were evaluated by the U.S. Women’s National Team coaching staff, led by head coach Ricky Fried, as well as several top-level college coaches. The team will train and compete in several exhibition events in the lead-up to the 2017 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) Women’s World Cup in Surrey, England. Ultimately, 18 players will represent the U.S. as the team goes for a third consecutive and eighth overall world title.
A team-high eight players are graduates of or currently play for the University of North Carolina, with the University of Maryland and Syracuse University placing seven current and former players each.
“We appreciate the tremendous effort put forth by this group of players this weekend,” said Ricky Fried, head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team. “While it’s always a difficult task to select from among the most decorated players in the country, we’re excited to begin the process of defending the gold medal with this new group.”
The team will next convene for a training weekend August 1-3 at Georgetown University.
The 38-player training team, by position with school and graduation year noted:
Alex Aust, Maryland 2013
Danielle Etrasco, Boston University 2013 *
Stephanie Finley, James Madison 2015
Cortney Fortunato, Notre Dame 2017 +
Alyssa Leonard, Northwestern 2014
Becky Lynch, North Carolina 2012
Erin McMunn, Princeton 2015 +
Lindsey Munday, Northwestern 2006 *^
Alyssa Murray, Syracuse 2014
Courtney Swan, Virginia 2015
Kayla Treanor, Syracuse 2016 +
Michelle Tumolo, Syracuse 2013
Maggie Bill, North Carolina 2017
Sarah Bullard, Duke 2011 *^
Taylor Cummings, Maryland 2016
Emily Garrity, North Carolina 2013
Caitlyn McFadden, Maryland 2010 *^
Kelly McPartland, Maryland 2015 +
Kelly Rabil, James Madison 2007 *
Mikaela Rix, Boston College 2015 +
Katie Schwarzmann, Maryland 2013 *
Taylor Trimble, Duke 2015 +
Taryn VanThof, Loyola 2015
Katie Webster, Syracuse 2014
Laura Zimmerman, North Carolina 2012
Becca Block, Syracuse 2013
Megan Douty, Maryland 2015
Elizabeth Goslee, Marquette 2016
Katie Hertsch, Hofstra 2010
Alice Mercer, Maryland 2016
Kasey Mock, Syracuse 2014
Jenn Russell, North Carolina 2010 *
Sloane Serpe, North Carolina 2014
Morgan Stephens, Virginia 2015
Courtney Waite, North Carolina 2015
Liz Hogan, Syracuse 2011
Caroline Waters, North Carolina 2017
Devon Wills, Dartmouth 2006 *^
*Member of world champion 2013 U.S. women’s national team
^Member of world champion 2009 U.S. women’s national team
+Member of world champion 2011 U.S. women’s national under-19 team
For more information on the U.S. women’s national team, visit uslacrosse.org/teamusa.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/eight-tar-heels-lead-u-s-womens-lacrosse-national-team/
The UNC men’s tennis team beat South Carolina 4-1 on Sunday in Chapel Hill to move on to the NCAA Sweet 16.
With the win, the Tar Heels improved to 26-5 on the year, breaking the all-time team record for wins in a season set back in 1992 and tied in 2006. This marks Carolina’s eighth appearance in the Sweet Sixteen.
The seventh-ranked Tar Heels now head to Athens, Georgia, where they’ll face No. 8 Georgia on Friday at 4:00 p.m. The tenth-seeded Bulldogs are the host school for the rest of the tournament; they knocked UNC out of the tournament in 2012, the last time Carolina reached the Sweet Sixteen.
Elsewhere, the third-seeded UNC women’s lacrosse team advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals with a 10-8 win over Georgetown on Sunday at Fetzer Field. Abbey Friend scored four goals to lead the way; she now has 195 goals in her career, surpassing the old school record of 192 set by Corey Donohoe.
Carolina will face Virginia in the quarterfinals next Saturday, also at Fetzer Field. The No. 11 Cavaliers reached the quarters with a 13-11 win over Princeton on Sunday.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-mens-tennis-womens-lax-advance-ncaas/
CHAPEL HILL – UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham says Fetzer Field is Carolina’s athletic facility most in need of upgrades, but money will likely be the deciding factor when it comes down to which programs see improvement first.
“Basketball is such a primary revenue driver for the department, it’s hard to not think about basketball as a way to potentially pay for additional projects,” Cunningham says. “We’re doing them in tandem, but the one I’d like to complete first would be soccer.”
Fetzer Field is the home of the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams, six track programs, and the men’s and women’s soccer teams. The facility was constructed in 1935 and saw renovations in 1988-90.
The women’s soccer team is by far the most successful Division I program as it has won 22 national titles in the sport’s 34-year history. The Tar Heels are one win away from going back to the College Cup in search of defending their national title.
The Dean E. Smith Center opened January 18, 1986 and has since seen two expansions—one in 1992 and another in 2000. Its current capacity is just less than 22,000.
Cunningham says there are still more questions than answers about what to do with the Smith Center: renovate or rebuild.
“When you begin the discussion of enhancing an existing facility—particularly a building that’s almost 30 years old—at some point, the efficiency of renovation is surpassed by a new building,” Cunningham says. “So, I think we need to look at both. It’s just too early to tell which of those potential options becomes more appealing over time.”
In March, Cunningham told WCHL that changes to the UNC basketball facility were years away and that the discussions were just beginning. Not much has changed in the eight months since word first broke that changes were coming. And, he says he wants to take the next 12 months to get the answers to what route UNC Athletics should take.
Many of the lower-level seats are reserved for season ticket holders and lifetime seat holders. Those lifetime seat holders are already major contributors to the athletic department financially and ones that could greatly benefit a new venue. But, are the Dean Dome lifetime seat holders guaranteed seats in a potential new facility?
“It’s a great question,” Cunningham says. “That is something that we have to take a look at: what are the obligations that the institution has to the donors, and what obligation do we have to new donors? So, that becomes a very significant question and challenge that we will hope to get some answers to over the next 12 months.”
If renovations are the plan of attack in the 27-year-old facility, Cunningham says one addition could be to add a type of luxury suite or club box much like the Blue Zone at Kenan Stadium.
“The suite rights for suites and club seats more than pays for the debt service,” Cunningham says. “In fact, it turns a little bit of revenue back to the general fund for the department. So, if we took that model and applied it to basketball, is there a way to create premium seating that would cover the cost of construction and then increase revenue for the department that would help us fund our other sports.”
Cunningham says that would take some revenue away from individual seats, but may offer the option to gain revenue from the space the seats took up by increased value that square footage would then have.
Cunningham says the bottom line is that no decisions are being made right now but that the athletic department is going to make sure that it can continue to recruit top players, coaches, and contributors.
“How do we preserve one of the best basketball programs in the country and put it in a facility that will continue to attract players and coaches,” Cunningham says. “That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re just trying to sort through what is appropriate right now.”http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/gets-upgrades-first-soccer-basketball/
LOS ANGELES – In the annual ESPYS Awards show on ESPN Wednesday night, UNC was the only school in the country with two nominees (two of the four as a matter of fact) for an ESPY as Best Female College Athlete of the year.
Kara Cannizzaro of the Tar Heel lacrosse team and Crystal Dunn, of women’s soccer, each led their teams to the national championships in their respective sports.
The winner was Brittney Griner, of Baylor basketball, who led her team to the 2012 National Championship.
The winners are chosen in a vote of fans and announced in an Oscar-like ESPN telecast from Los Angeles.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-well-represented-at-2013-espys/
CHAPEL HILL– UNC student-athletes Crystal Dunn and Kara Cannizzaro will be going head-to-head as both were nominated for the ESPY Award for Best Female College Athlete.
Both ladies are expected to attend the ceremony at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, California.
Dunn guided the dynastic Tar Heel women’s soccer team to yet another national title in the 2012 NCAA Women’s College Cup. She took it to another level in the postseason, scoring goals in the first four games of the tournament and assisting on goals in both College Cup games, including the game-winner against Stanford.
Named the Most Outstanding Player in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, Cannizzaro also won the Honda Award for women’s lacrosse. The leader of the UNC national championship winning squad, Cannizzaro had four goals in the national semifinals and four goals and two assists in the title game.
Tar Heel fans can help these two star UNC athletes win the award by voting online at ESPN.com/espys.
The 2013 ESPYS show can be seen live on ESPN Wednesday, July 17, at 9 p.m. ET.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/tar-heels-dunn-cannizzaro-nominees-for-espy-awards/
CLEVELAND – North Carolina’s eighth place finish in the Learfield Sports Director’s Cup is the highest finish among ACC schools—a feet which Carolina has accomplished for the 15th time in 20 years. It is also the second year in a row in which the Tar Heels have finished in eighth.
The Directors’ Cup measures each school’s performance in NCAA post-season competition.
The Tar Heels got a big boost from their women’s soccer and women’s lacrosse programs which each got 100 points for their national championships.
UNC Field Hockey finished the season second for 90 points, baseball finished third for 83 points, men’s soccer and women’s tennis both finished fifth for 73 points, and men’s lacrosse got a fifth-place finish for 60 points.
Stanford once again took the Cup for the 19th-straight time. However, second-place Florida was only 16.5 points behind.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/north-carolina-finishes-8th-again-in-directors-cup/
Head Coach Jenny Levy was named National Coach of the Year by Inside Lacrosse and the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA). Tar Heel senior star, Kara Cannizzaro was a finalist for the Tewaaraton award, which is one of the awards that recognizes the top player of the year. She won the Honda Sports Award, which also recognizes a national player of the year.
Carolina lost its season opener to Florida 5-3. It followed that loss with 11 straight wins, including an overtime victory against Duke. The Tar Heels then dropped their first conference game to national runner-up Maryland, 14-13. After another meeting with Maryland in the ACC title game which resulted in a 12-8 loss for Carolina, the Tar Heels weren’t going to allow another defeat at the hands of the Terrapins.
After relatively easy contests in the first three rounds of the NCAA tournament, UNC and Maryland met again for the national championship game. Carolina took the victory in a 13-12 triple overtime contest.
The Tar Heels lose Cannizzaro, but aside from two other seniors, return most of their major playmakers. Inside Lacrosse writer, Danielle Bernstein, says, “I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Tar Heels repeat in 2014.”http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-womens-lacrosse-named-team-of-the-year/