North Carolina

UNC non-revenue teams begin season with high aspirations -- as usual

Last season was a banner year for revenue sports at North Carolina, as the football and basketball teams both played at a championship level. But UNC is more than a basketball school, as its lacrosse program can tell you. Both the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams took home championship trophies this summer. Four other teams at UNC opened the season this fall with hopes to do the same.

Field Hockey

High expectations are nothing new for the UNC field hockey team. The preseason No. 1 in the NFHCA coaches poll, the Tar Heels are seeking their eighth straight berth in the Final Four, but their first championship since 2009.

Saturday’s season-opener was a hiccup in that quest, as UNC dropped its season-opener to No. 10 Michigan 1-0. A penalty corner was awarded to Michigan with no time on the clock, and the ball found the back of the goal off a deflection for the winning margin.

The Tar Heels rebounded in their next game, however, blotting out an unranked Iowa team fresh off an upset over No. 7 Wake Forest 4-1 thanks to some sharp passing. With a 1-1 record, UNC likely won’t keep the top spot in the next poll, but if history is any indicator, the Tar Heels have good odds to climb back to the peak.

Men’s soccer

After an earlier than expected exit from last year’s NCAA tournament, the UNC men’s soccer team took the phrase “reloading” seriously. The No. 8 Tar Heels return five of their top six scorers and added the No. 1 recruiting class according to TopDrawerSoccer, spearheaded by rookie midfielder Cameron Lindley.

The team showcased its additions in a 3-0 wins over Cal-Poly and St. Louis on Friday and Sunday respectively. Six Tar Heels scored, including last year’s leading scorers Alan Winn, Tucker Hume and Zach Wright, as well as German newcomer Nils Bruening, who practiced with the team all of last year, but is just now seeing the field.

Women’s soccer

No four-year player for North Carolina women’s soccer has ever left the program without a national championship trophy — one of a slew of ridiculous factoids showcasing possibly the most dominant dynasty in all of sports. But UNC’s last championship was in 2012, making this the last chance for some of the seniors on the roster to continue that streak.

Winning isn’t as easy as the No. 9 Tar Heels have made it look for the past few decades, and the push for the trophy has been complicated by the loss of the team’s top four scoring options from a season ago. Forwards Joanna Boyles and Jessie Scarpa will redshirt this season, as Boyles is still recovering from an ACL tear late in 2015 and Scarpa will play for the U.S. national team in the U-20 World Cup.

In their place, first-year forwards Zoe Redei and Bridgette Andrzejewski have stepped up. UNC defeated UCF 2-0 on opening night on Friday, Aug. 19, then shut out UNC-Charlotte 3-0 on Friday with Redei contributing her first career goal.

The Tar Heels made it three straight wins on Sunday in a crazy, two-overtime 3-2 victory against Florida Atlantic. A weather delay pushed the final two minutes back for another 40 before Andrzejewski scored her second goal of the day and the apparent game winner. But Florida Atlantic scored again 33 seconds later, setting the stage for Redei’s game winning goal in the second overtime period.

Volleyball

Not to be outdone in dramatics, the North Carolina volleyball team also made it to 3-0 with a come-from-behind victory. Visiting No. 9 Penn State in the Penn State Classic, the No. 19 Tar Heels won seven straight points to come back from a 23-18 deficit in the fourth set and avoided elimination. UNC then crushed Penn State in the fifth set 15-9 to complete the upset.

The Tar Heels also won two prior games in the tournament against Georgia Southern and West Virginia, closing out both teams 3-0. First-year Julia Scoles earned tournament MVP in her first college action after registering 30 kills in three games.

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