Fall Ball Focus: Melissa Sconone a Zone-Breaking Specialist for UNC

PHOTO BY JEFFREY A. CAMARATI / UNC ATHLETICS


Melissa Sconone crafted her blistering lefty shot for hours and hours.

“It definitely developed from my transition from middle school to high school,” North Carolina’s junior attacker said. “It was a lot of reps in the backyard for hours and hours at a time. I work out a lot and hit the weight room a lot.”

Sconone was like many other Division I athletes in that sense, but she had one edge. In her backyard, she had the chance at times to shoot on one of the best goalies in the men’s game, Sean Sconone. Her older brother is a goalie with the Premier Lacrosse League’s Chrome LC, a two-time Major League Lacrosse Goalie of the Year with the Dallas Rattlers and the 2019 Kelly Award winner as the nation’s top goalie for UMass.

“When he is preparing for his own stuff, I try to help out,” said Melissa Sconone, who is three years younger than Sean, and five years younger than oldest brother, Robert, who played in high school. “It’s not as good of a translation to the guys’ game, but he is sometimes in there when I shoot. And I do get a couple in every so often. It’s hard, though.”

Sconone found success against the goalies she saw last spring in the women’s game. She posted career highs of 13 goals and 12 assists as a spark plug off the bench for the Tar Heels, who reached the national semifinals. She tried to make the most of her first full season despite being in a relief role.

“Coming from high school to college where you’re playing at the best school in the country around the best kids in the country, it’s definitely very humbling, to say the least,” Sconone said. “But I was working hard and trying to make the most of every opportunity I was given. I was very aware of my role and doing what I could to help my team win last year. Though I wasn’t starting, it was a team effort, and I just tried to make the most of my opportunities and tried to keep a positive mindset every day to keep working hard.”

Her work ethic began to develop earnestly as she became more serious entering high school in her hometown of East Islip, N.Y. A three-sport athlete, she developed into a top-50 Inside Lacrosse recruit, thanks in part to the help of her brothers, particularly shooting against Sean.

“He definitely helps,” Sconone said. “He definitely made me a better shooter. Technique-wise, he helped a lot being in the cage for me.”

Sconone wears No. 50 just like both of her brothers. Sean’s pride in his sister is evident on his Instagram account, and Sconone appreciates her support system led by her professional brother.

“She’s a great athlete,” UNC coach Jenny Levy said. “She understands sports. She’s super competitive. It’s been fun to see her continue to grow.”

Sconone’s first season was shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic. She led all UNC freshmen in scoring with 10 points and was able to build on that success last year, something she attributes to the team’s strong work culture. Sconone was efficient with her opportunities, with many of the biggest of them coming down the stretch. She scored in six straight games leading up to the national semifinal loss, including three points against Syracuse and four points against James Madison.

“Melissa does a great job for us, especially against zone teams,” Levy said. “She’s a big target, she can obviously shoot the ball really well and she’s smart and knows how to pick apart zones. The more zone teams you saw, the more Melissa Sconone you saw.”







Sconone would love to see more time but recognizes how challenging that is on UNC. All but Katie Hoeg, who led UNC with 71 assists, return from the top six scorers at the attacking end. Sconone was the Tar Heels’ eighth-leading scorer.

This fall, she and the UNC attack have been working against a rebuilding defense hit hard by the graduation of starters Caroline Wakefield, Kayla Wood and Catie Woodruff. Emma Trenchard and goalie Taylor Moreno do return to anchor that end.

“I think our defense last year was probably one of the best ever in Division I,” Levy said. “I know we didn’t win the championship, but our defense was a work of art. And the players in it were unbelievable both individually and collectively as a unit.”

The Tar Heels are spending the fall sorting out where they can use each of their players’ skill sets to make the team best. Their attack figures to have plenty of firepower and plenty of competition for time.

“You’re not entitled to anything,” Levy said. “You have to be ready to go when you’re called upon. It’s an old school mentality people would say, but I don’t think it has to be called that. It’s necessary if you want to play at the highest level.”

Sconone spent the summer focusing on fitness and footwork to augment the power her game brings. Now she is working to show that she can provide the same spark that she did last year — or maybe even more.

“Whatever comes my way, I’m going to take it and deal with it and keep working hard and try to make the most of every opportunity that I get,” Sconone said. “I’m not really looking at that and thinking about it too hard. Hopefully it’s better, but if it isn’t, I’ll deal with it and work on whatever I have to fix and take it day by day.”

NORTH CAROLINA AT A GLANCE

Not only did Katie Hoeg graduate with the school scoring record, but she picked up a Chi Alpha Sigma postgraduate scholarship to be used at UNC’s Adams School of Dentistry … The Tar Heels return five of their six leading scorers from a year ago … Levy will be inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame at a date to be determined in early 2022 … Among the team building exercises that UNC did this year was splitting into four teams with each constructing a wooden boat that they then raced on a local lake … Taylor Moreno has started 54 straight games in goal and has a career record of 48-6, one shy of Caylee Waters’ school record … Ten of the 36 players invited to the U.S. women’s national team’s training camp were from UNC, including current Heels players Jamie Ortega, Ally Mastroianni, Taylor Moreno and Emma Trenchard … Transfers Andie Aldave (Notre Dame) and Olivia Dirks (Penn State) combined for 160 draw controls last year.

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