The time has come for the UNC Tar Heels to defend their first ever national championship. Coming from someone what watched every game last year, I can tell you that this team is even better. The Tar Heels have the most experienced defense in the country with two preseason All Americans. They have the best attacker in the world as an assistant coach and they bring in the best recruiting class in program history; some would argue the best recruiting class in women’s lacrosse history.
All that said, they still have to play the games. Today, February 8th, 2014, the Tar Heels will take on the #4 Florida Gators at Fetzer Field. The last four seasons have opened with a game against the Gators as the assistant at Florida was a former UNC standout. Last year, the Gators defeated UNC 5-3 for the first time in program history. This is a Florida program that is only five years old. Therein lies the problem for the Gators today. Last year was the senior season of Kitty Cullen and several other Gators that built the program from the ground up.
It is not that the Gators are not talented, it is that they are not experienced. The Tar Heels will play four true freshman today, Maggie Bill, Molly Hendrick, Syndey Holman and Carly Reed, but they will also rely on senior captains Margaret Corzel and Sloane Serpe to anchor the defense. The two senior captains will be surrounded by Caileigh Sindall, Mallory Frysinger and Courtney Waite on the defensive side of the field. All have starting experience and will see playing time today.
The defense is stacked and there are no concerns. The only place I am concerned about the Heels is in the midfield. Kara Cannizzaro and Emily Garrity graduated. Enter Maggie Bill and Molly Hendrick. I am shocked at the talents of Bill and the physical approach of Hendrick. These two true freshman will be asked to do a lot today and the entire year. I want to see Maggie Bill get more aggressive on the offensive side of the field. In all three scrimmages I have watched she is, by far and away, the best player between the 30s. I would love to see her get a little selfish and take more shots.
The Gators have talent. One play to keep an eye on today is #8 Shannon Gilroy. She is a preseason Tewaaraton finalist and will lead the Gators. I will be interested to see how the younger Gators try to dictate the pace of play this year. Last year they were one of the top scoring teams in the country. I think they would be silly to try and play a shootout game with the Tar Heels. In fact, no team wants to do that.
This will be the start of an amazing run for the Tar Heels, in my opinion. If they can beat Florida handily I think their only competitive games will be against Maryland (in Chapel Hill) and at Syracuse. Kayla Treanor and Alyssa Murray, of Syracuse, versus that UNC defense will be the matchup of the year. I believe we will see them play three times. The regular season, ACC Championship and National Championship game. For now, the Tar Heels have to handle the Florida Gators at noon.
My Prediction: UNC 15, Florida 6
Final Score: UNC 20, Florida 8
Total domination. Nothing else needs to be said.