PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER

North Carolina coach Jenny Levy led her Tar Heels to the program's second overall NCAA title in 2016 with a 13-7 rout of Maryland.

More Than Wins: Jenny Levy's 300th Victory


Soon after her Tar Heels had won the 2016 NCAA championship, North Carolina coach Jenny Levy took a former player, Amanda Barnes, then an assistant at Duke, to dinner. Barnes was days away from a job interview at East Carolina, about two hours east of their nearby campuses, in Greenville, N.C. The school was starting a lacrosse team, and Barnes was a finalist for the job.

“It was like a drill,” said Barnes. “At that dinner, she kept emphasizing, ‘What’s your vision? No, Amanda, what’s your vision?’ I needed to be really sure of the vision I had for ECU. And still to this day, I am very clear about the vision I have for the program.”

Barnes was hired as the inaugural Pirates head coach on June 27, 2016, and in 2018, will be looking for her first career win. Levy, on the other hand, hit her own landmark this weekend, No. 300 with a 16-8 win over Canisus. She joins Navy's Cindy Timchal and Princeton's Chris Sailer as the only coaches to reach the milestone in NCAA Division I women's lacrosse history. In her 22nd year and winner of two of the last four national championships, Levy, like most veteran coaches who pass ‘landmark’ wins, rejected any fanfare.

"Winning games is important; it is what we are judged on, but the relationships built are what will be with us a lifetime,” Levy said following the game. “We consistently have former players and families come out to games and support our current team, our alumnae weekends are packed with alums coming back to Chapel Hill, and our alumnae assist our current players network professionally. The connections that we have created through Carolina Lacrosse is what makes it so special. What an opportunity, what an honor."

Several coaches and players who, like Barnes, have passed through Chapel Hill during Levy’s tenure at UNC, reflected on the impact Levy has had on their lives and those of the hundreds of women she’s coached.

“I keep going back to that she’s just so convicted,” said Barnes, who Levy recruited as a goalie in the early 2000s despite just three years at that position in high school. “As a player, you can’t help but believe her. She has a lot of self-belief and that’s something really powerful for a young female athlete to be influenced by. And you can’t help but have that same belief in yourself and your teammates.

“When I left North Carolina, I thought I could do anything.”


"The connections that we have created through Carolina Lacrosse is what makes it so special. What an opportunity, what an honor," said North Carolina coach Jenny Levy.


Several other former players and coaches cited a sense of confidence that Levy inspires.

“The four years you spend in college are a huge inflection point,” said Laura Zimmerman, a 2012 All-American as a Tar Heel. “You don’t have your parents there telling you what you need to get done. Having her as kind of the spearhead person who was driving my daily motivation, it had a huge effect on me. It was huge for that four years having someone to look up to.”

Zimmerman, who now plays for Team USA and will compete in the Federation of International Lacrosse Women's World Cup this summer, says she feels Levy’s influence as a daily part of her job as a New York City investment banker. Levy, she said, drove her to push herself in both lacrosse and in finance classes.

“In the off-season, she would have us read books or work with therapists or what not, and push our boundaries,” she said. “I might not have appreciated it as 19-year-old, but she was always a strong female that I had in my life. She was never going to get bossed around. Having that type of female figure in your life, now I use it in business when I’m surrounded by men and people older than myself. I try to take the kind of attitude and approach she would.”








Oregon coach Katrina Dowd never played for Levy but was her assistant during North Carolina's most recent – and successful – four years. The pair, along with long-time assistant Phil Barnes, led the Tar Heels to two national titles.

“She’s super competitive, and when you get into those final fours, that juice is there from her at a whole other level,” said Dowd. “She trusts the process. She trusts in her staff and her players. We never changed a whole lot of what we were doing all season.”

Though Dowd left Chapel Hill at a peak after 2016’s national title, she said Levy had been supportive of her desire to be a head coach even from her first interview.

“Even in my interview, it’s something we talked about, and something she confronted right away,” said Levy. “She said, 'If you want to be a head coach, I’m going to be here to mentor you until that time comes.’ She said that right up front. She’d invite me on conference calls and other things. Just small things built up over time. I greatly appreciate the trust, and for me to go to a place that allowed that trust level was the perfect way to prepare to be a head coach.”




PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER

Levy earned her 300th career win when North Carolina defeated Canisius on March 5, 2017, at the US Lacrosse headquarters.


Jenn Cook, now an assistant at Princeton, both played for Levy as a two-time Tewaaraton nominee and coached on her staff for four years.

“Jenny has an incredible talent for drawing out the best in her players and their strengths,” she wrote in a text last weekend. “The spring before I graduated, Jenny brought me into her office and asked what my plans were post-college. She genuinely believed in my ability to be a coach before I did. I'm grateful that she knew me better than I knew myself.”

“She changed my life and my family’s life,” added ECU’s Barnes. “The main thing I learned from Jenny, your influence is never neutral. You choose what you are going to get out of something. I think about it now. When you may or may not know you’re a mentor to someone, your influence isn’t neutral. You can impact them positively or negatively.”

North Carolina senior Molly Hendrick hugs coach Jenny Levy following their 2016 championship win over Maryland at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pa.