2022 NCAA Lacrosse Preview: No. 2 North Carolina (Women)

PHOTO BY JEFFREY A. CAMARATI / UNC ATHLETICS

Caitlyn Wurzburger could carve out a larger role in 2022 after the graduation of Katie Hoeg.


The 2022 college lacrosse season is nearly upon us. As is our annual tradition, we’re featuring every team ranked in the Nike/USA Lacrosse Preseason Top 20.

Check back to USALaxMagazine.com each weekday this month for new previews, scouting reports and rival analysis.

NO. 2 NORTH CAROLINA

2021 Record: 20-1 (9-0 ACC)
Final Ranking (2021): No. 2
Coach: Jenny Levy (27th season)

Out with the old, in with the … old?

Well, sort of.

Over the past four seasons, Katie Hoeg and Jamie Ortega were the yin and yang, Thelma and Louise for the North Carolina women’s lacrosse team. Although Ortega, the school’s all-time leading goal scorer, will use her fifth year of eligibility and play this spring, Hoeg graduated as the all-time leading scorer in UNC and ACC history.

Losing a player of Hoeg’s caliber would spell doom for many teams. But after an offseason fueled by the stunning loss to Boston College in the NCAA semifinals, returning attackers Scottie Rose Growney and Tayler Warehime are ready to take on the challenge of being Ortega’s top running mates, while hoping to lead the No. 2-ranked Tar Heels to their first national title since 2016.

“Katie helped form what the future at Carolina is going to look like, and I don’t think many people can say that,” Growney said. “I really hope we’re able to redeem everything she set forth and win the natty we wanted last year.”

After being a rotation player early in her career, Growney has become a full-time starter for the Tar Heels over the last two seasons, recording 68 goals and 24 assists in 28 games.

Warehime, meanwhile, emerged as an instant contributor during her first season in 2019, when she earned 14 starts and scored 34 goals. She upped the ante last year by notching a career-best 38 goals, good for third-most on the team.

NIKE/USAL PRESEASON TOP 20
TEAM PREVIEWS

1. Boston College

2. North Carolina

3. Syracuse

4. Northwestern

5. Stony Brook

6. Maryland

7. Notre Dame

8. Duke

9. Loyola

10. Florida

11. Virginia

12. James Madison

13. Princeton

14. Stanford

15. Denver

16. Rutgers

17. Drexel

18. Jacksonville

19. UConn

20. Penn

Even with Ortega (82 goals) returning, Warehime is excited to see others step up and make the unit even more potent with its versatility.

“We caught ourselves last year a couple times relying on one or two players. People realize this year they have to be a threat individually,” Warehime said. “If we have seven threats on the field, our attack will be so dangerous.”

While Ortega, Growney, Waremime and sophomore Caitlyn Wurzburger (58 points) provide experience on attack, other parts of the field will be bolstered by two preseason All-American transfers.

Graduate transfer Andie Aldave should be a useful weapon on draw controls, as she broke the single-season record at Notre Dame twice with 98 and 135 controls during her freshmen and sophomore seasons, respectively. Sophomore Olivia Dirks, the reigning Big Ten Midfielder of the Year, should also have a featured role. She finished with 31 goals and 12 assists in 13 games for Penn State last year.

Aldave, Dirks and first-team All-American Ally Mastroianni (31 goals, 112 draw controls) all have trained with the U.S. national team, giving North Carolina built-in chemistry at the midfield position.

As the nation’s top team before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the 2020 campaign and falling short last season despite entering the NCAA tournament with an 18-0 record, the Tar Heels understand the stakes they are up against.

Although Growney admitted that a season ending prematurely is often out of a team’s control, she said the players have shown noticeable growth over the past few months.

And now speaking as a newly anointed leader with championship aspirations, she believes the team’s mental and physical development could put UNC over the top.

“This offseason was probably some of the most work we’ve put into a fall, whether it was individual skills, conditioning, speed and agility, or even the weight room,” Growney said. “It just really shows the overall maturity of this group.”






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TOP RETURNERS

Jamie Ortega, A, Fifth-Year

As the Tar Heels’ all-time leading goal scorer, she is the offensive focal point following the departure of Katie Hoeg. Ortega scored 82 goals last season and enters 2022 as a popular Tewaaraton Award pick.

Caitlyn Wurzberger, A, So.

Wurzberger was a member of the ACC-All Freshman team after scoring 36 goals off the bench last season. With Hoeg’s departure, Wurzberger could see considerably more time at the X helping to facilitate the offense. She was a do-it-all attacker during her prolific high school career, and her versatility makes her a weapon for Levy.

Taylor Moreno, G, Gr.

A three-year, full-time starter and 2022 USA Lacrosse Magazine Preseason Goalie of the Year, Moreno will look to build on a campaign during which she recorded 148 saves and a .546 save percentage. One of the most athletic goalies in the nation, Moreno is the engine that can carry UNC to a title.

KEY ADDITION

Andie Aldave, A, Gr.

An All-American caliber player who started all four years at Notre Dame broke the Irish’s single-season draw control record twice in 2018 and 2019 and scored 113 goals in her career. A midfielder in South Bend, UNC’s roster indicates that Aldave will focus more on the attacking end this spring.

BREAKOUT CANDIDATE

Brooklyn Neumen, M, Sr. 

An experienced player with 18 starts from 2019-20, Neumen came off the bench 16 times in 2021. Still, she is expected to provide stability and leadership to new midfield group that features a prominent transfer in Olivia Dirks (Penn State). Jenny Levy’s midfield is a deep group yet again, led by first-team preseason All-American Ally Mastroianni and a returning veteran in Scottie Rose Growney, but look for Neumen to carve out a role.

ENEMY LINES

What rival coaches say about the Tar Heels:

“They’re stacked. They’re always contenders at the top level of the tournament. They’re going to be great. They have talent, they have depth, they have strong coaching. I would put them up with the very best this year.”

BEYOND THE BASICS
POWERED BY LACROSSE REFERENCE

105.1

The rich get richer. That’s the name of the transfer game in college lacrosse. North Carolina, which was one Charlotte North explosion from being the undefeated national champion in 2021, brought in the most production via transfer of any team, and it’s not close (Maryland has 55.3 EGA incoming). Losing Katie Hoeg means the Tar Heels need to find a new primary distributor, but with this much coming in, it’s not as if they don’t have options. — Zack Capozzi

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