The North Carolina women's lacrosse team plays Virginia at Fetzer Field at 1 p.m. Saturday in the NCAA quarterfinals, a game that will draw national attention.
Senior Yeardley Love, 22, a member of the Virginia team, was found beaten to death in her apartment in Charlottesville, Va., on May 3. A member of the Virginia men's lacrosse team, George Huguely, 22, has given a confession to police and been charged with first-degree murder.
The No. 3-seeded Tar Heels face a team that has drawn empathy across the nation from fans and the college lacrosse community.
Tar Heels coach Jenny Levy played college lacrosse at Virginia, graduating in 1992. The Tar Heels sent flowers, and Levy has been in touch with Virginia coach Julie Myers and associate athletic director Jane Miller.
In the Heels' game Saturday against Navy, both schools wore orange armbands, as did many of the remaining NCAA teams in a show of solidarity.
"As an alum, it's important to me to let them know that we're supporting them," Levy said.
Levy acknowledged the situation makes the game - with a bid to the NCAA semifinals on the line - even more difficult.
"It does, but it doesn't change the goals and mission of our team," she said.
The Tar Heels still want to win.
"There's obviously some necessary recognition of the situation," Levy said. "But they're preparing to win the game so they can stay together for another week. We're preparing to win the game so we can stay together for another week. Not to lose perspective, but to show respect, we have to give our best and play our best game."
The two teams met in March with Virginia handing North Carolina a 13-12 overtime loss, one of two all season for the Heels (16-2). No. 6 seed Virginia (14-5) is coming off a 14-12 victory over Towson in their first game since Love died.
"They have a lot of experience in big games," Levy said. "They have a lot of players that are willing to step up to the challenge of each game. ... We learned that the hard way."
Levy said the loss played a key role in the Heels' season.
"We got out of the gates quickly [against Virginia], but we let down," she said.
Levy said it is unfortunate that college lacrosse seems to get media attention only when something bad happens.
"I know that there's lots of good that happens within the sport," Levy said. "Unfortunately, this is just part of the journey that this sport has taken right now. I know we will see better days on the backside."
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