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Hoeg and Ortega Become Four Time All Americans

The IWLCA has announced the All Americans for 2021 and UNC has five on the list. Attackers Katie Hoeg and Jamie Ortega, midfielder Ally Mastroianni, defender Emma Trenchard and goalie Taylor Moreno were all first team All Americans. Both Hoeg and Ortega are four time All Americans and with Ortega’s return for her fifth and final season, she could become the first five time All American.

UNC lead the country with five (5) first team All Americans. Northwestern and Syracuse each had two (2). Noticeably absent from the list was freshman Caitlyn Wurzburger.

Motivation for the 2022 Tar Heels

If the 2022 UNC women’s lacrosse team need any more motivation, here it is:

2021 UNC Women’s Lacrosse Roster – Recruiting Rankings

2016

  • #1 – Kerrigan Miller
  • #6 – Katie Hoeg
  • #21 – Taylor Moreno
  • #50 – Maddie Hoffer

2017

  • #2 – Jamie Ortega
  • #3 – Alli Mastroianni
  • #15 – Scottie Rose Growney
  • #46 – Kayla Wood

2018

  • #1 – Elizabeth Hillman
  • #19 – Tayler Warehime
  • #41 – Gabi Hall
  • #43 – Brooklyn Neumen

2019

  • #10 – Livi Lawton
  • #16 – Nicole Humphrey
  • #28 – Brianna Lantuh
  • #32 – Julia Dorsey
  • #39 – Emily Nalls
  • #47 – Melissa Sconone

2020

  • #1 – Caitlyn Wurzburger
  • #13 – Shannon Smith
  • #19 – Reilly Casey
  • #25 – Alexa Gentile
  • #39 – Amelia Sheehan
  • #42 – Alyssa Long

 

 

 

 

Kerrigan Miller – 2021 Season in Review

  • 21 Goals
  • 8 Assists
  • 29 Points

One of the reasons the 2021 UNC Tar Heels women’s lacrosse team was dubbed the greatest roster in history were the graduate transfers of Kerrigan Miller and Katie Bourque. Both were All-Americans in the COVID shortened 2020 season and were expected to make an immediate impact. Bourque tore her ACL in fall ball so it was Miller who received all the attention as the most important transfer in women’s lacrosse.

While at USC, Miller 36, 36 and 22 goals in her full seasons. Her shooting percentage was never over 45%. That said, she was the two-time Pac-12 Midfielder of the Year winner at USC (2019, 2020).

In 2016, Kerrigan Miller was the #1 recruit in the country. That year, #6 was Katie Hoeg and #21 was Taylor Moreno. Hoeg and Miller played for the club team the Long Island Yellow Jackets and always wanted to play college lacrosse together. After a COVID shortened 2020 season, they got their chance.

With Kerrigan Miller, UNC had three #1 recruits in the country on the 2021 team.

  • 2016 – Kerrigan Miller
  • 2018 – Elizabeth Hillman
  • 2020 – Caitlyn Wurzburger

Add 2020 Co-Players of the Year Katie Hoeg and Jamie Ortega and you have one of the most talented teams in the history of the sport.

Miller started in the midfield every game for the Tar Heels. While she did not rack up points through goals and assists, she covered every stat with draw controls, ground balls and caused turnovers. Throughout the season we heard that Miller wanted to play for US National Team head coach Jenny Levy to improve her (wo)man-to-(wo)man skills on defense. She played mostly zone while at USC.

A misconception that many had, myself included, was that Miller would come in and immediately be an offensive threat. She was the best high school player in the country in 2016 after all. Instead, she was a role player with a very high lacrosse IQ. So high that Jenny Levy has already named her a graduate assistant for the 2022 UNC team.

Miller was never a true offensive threat as she shot 33% for the season. She was a fantastic split dodge attacker but defenses quickly realized that once she beat her defender, just let the goalie do the rest of the work. She was only going to score 1/3 of the time. Unlike Jamie Ortega and Caitlyn Wurzburger that reached 70% shooting, Miller was never going to be a sharp shooter.

By the end of the season, defenses forced Kerrigan Miller, Scottie Rose Growney and Alli Mastroianni to beat them. Jamie Ortega often took control and willed the UNC team to a win but that wasn’t enough in the Final Four game against Boston College. Against Boston College, Miller was 1-6 shooting with a single goal.

In what will likely go down as a turning point in that Boston College game, Kerrigan Miller was on the doorstep with basically a guaranteed goal and was stopped by Rachel Hall. This turned the momentum and Boston College went on a run and would never relinquish the lead.

Kerrigan Miller was an integral part of the UNC draw control and defense throughout the entire season. She will not end her career with any records or awards, but she was the glue that held the team together in a number of games.

Alli Mastroianni – 2021 Season in Review

  • 31 Goals
  • 4 Assists
  • 35 Points

Alli Mastroianni was the 2021 ACC Midfielder of the Year. The same ACC midfield that included Charlotte North. Throughout the season Jenny Levy reiterated that Alli Mastroianni did not get the credit she deserved. With Jamie Ortega and Katie Hoeg getting most of the press, Mastroianni was dubbed a role player.

What cannot be discounted was the importance of Mastroianni in the draw circle. Other than the second Duke game, Mastroianni was fantastic in the draw circle. She ended the season with 112 draw controls and a season high eight (8) versus Charlotte North and Boston College in the 2021 Final Four.

If anyone would have given Boston College an advantage in the Final Four game it would have been at the draw circle. Mastroianni completely flipped that script and dominated North at the draw. UNC won 16 of the 23 draw controls.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times, the Notre Dame game was the turning point of the season for the Tar Heels. Going into the Notre Dame game in South Bend, Mastroianni had 19 goals on 45% shooting. In the Notre Dame game, Mastroianni was held scoreless on four (4) shots. In the final nine (9) games after the Notre Dame game, Mastroianni had 12 goals on 39 shots (31%). As a midfielder or attacker on the best team in the country, you cannot shoot at 31%.

What defenses realized after watching game film of UNC was Mastroianni, Scottie Rose Growney and Kerrigan Miller were not sharp shooters. They benefitted from slides and the passing skills of Katie Hoeg early in the season but those defensive slides didn’t happen late in the season. Coaches basically said, “Ortega is not going to beat us; let’s see if someone else will.”

Mastroianni was the #3 recruit in the country in 2017 behind Andi Aldave (Notre Dame) and Jamie Ortega. She has never had a full season at UNC in which she shot at a clip higher than 40%. While Caitlyn Wurzburger was shooting 72% in her final 10 games, Mastrioanni was hovering around 30%.

Once again, it cannot be understated how important Mastroianni was at the draw for the Tar Heels. After she exchanged sticks after controlling draws, it seemed like it was impossible for her to get the ball in the back of the net. In the Final Four game against Boston College she was 0-6 shooting until she scored with one second left and the game was over.

Mastroianni has one more year of eligibility left and we will find out if she will use that eligibility in the fall of 2021.

Taylor Warehime – 2021 Season in Review

  • 38 Goals
  • 8 Assists
  • 46 Points

Coming into the 2021 season much was expected of Tayler Warehime as she had 34 goals in her freshman season (2019). Some thought she could be the #2 goal scorer behind Jamie Ortega on the preseason #1 Tar Heels. The preseason #1 ranking was in part because of the expectations of Warehime, Growney and Mastroianni.

During the first half of the season, Warehime was a consistent scorer with 22 goals in the first 10 games of the season. As I have stated with a number of players, such as Scottie Rose Growney, the Notre Dame game was the turning point in the UNC season. Unlike Growney, Warehime showed signs of brilliance in the second half of the season with hat tricks in games against Virginia, Louisville, James Madison and Stony Brook. Unfortunately, she completely disappeared in games against Duke, Syracuse and Boston College in which she was held without a goal.

Turnovers also became a problem for Warehime late in the season. She had a least one turnover in the final six games of the season and had two very costly turnovers versus Boston College in the 2021 Final Four. Some could argue that one of her turnovers that lead to a Charlotte North transition goal was the turning point of the game.

Unlike Growney, Warehime kept her high shooting percentage throughout the end of the season but she simply wasn’t getting off shots. In a number of crucial points in games, Jenny Levy substituted Melissa Sconone in for Warehime as she was not producing on the offensive end of the field.

Of the secondary 2021 UNC attackers/midfielders which includes Growney, Mastroianni, Miller and Warehime, Tayler Warehime was more reliable when the ball needed to go in the back of the net. Unfortunately, none of these athletes could get the ball in the back of the net versus Boston College when the Tar Heels needed it most. Subsequently, Boston College ended the UNC season. Growney and Mastroianni did score but Mastroianni scored with one second left when the game was over and Growney scored early on and then struggled greatly.

Warehime will continue her UNC career in 2022 as a senior but will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Caitlyn Wurzburger – 2021 Season in Review

  • 36 Goals
  • 17 Assists
  • 53 Points

The greatest high school recruit in women’s lacrosse history. As soon as Wurzburger walked on campus in Chapel Hill there were unreal expectations. Sports Illustrated dubbed her as the Michael Jordan of women’s lacrosse. With the most decorated high school career in women’s lacrosse history (1,027 points on 503 goals and 524 assists), 2021 was her opportunity to bring her skills to the collegiate level.

If any argument could be made that Wurzburger was not the greatest high school women’s lacrosse player in history it was competition. She played at American Heritage School Boca-Delray in Florida which is not exactly a hotbed of high school lacrosse talent. While Belle Smith was playing against the stiffest competition on the Long Island Yellow Jackets club team, Wurzburger was scoring 10 points a game against girls that were just learning the game.

Wurzburger started the 2021 season slow with only 10 goals and seven (7) assists in the first 11 games. There were single games she had 10 goals in high school. When the second half of the season rolled around, Caitlyn Wurzburger became one of the biggest scoring threats on the UNC team. While Scottie Rose Growney, Tayler Warehime, All Mastroianni and Kerrigan Miller struggled to score on the back half of the season, Wurzburger had her best games.

From the Notre Dame game until the end of the season, Wurzburger was playing at an All-American level. She had 26 goals and 10 assists in the final 10 games of the season. When UNC needed her most, she showed up. She had five (5) goals against Duke and three (3) goals in the Final Four versus Boston College. She shot at a scorching rate of 72% (26 of 36) in the final 10 games of the season.

Belle Smith deservedly received ACC Freshman of the Year honors but most would agree that Wurzburger and Smith are going to be two of the best players in the country over the next three years. Belle Smith has a National Championship and a Freshman of the Year award. This will motivate Wurzburger in the offseason as she will come back better than ever in her sophomore campaign. She will also have Jamie Ortega as a partner in that run for a National Title.

The highlight of the year for Wurzburger was this shot between her legs against Louisville in the 2021 ACC Tournament.

Scottie Rose Growney – 2021 Season in Review

  • 46 Goals
  • 19 Assists
  • 65 Points

During the first half of the 2021 women’s lacrosse season some could argue that Scottie Rose Growney was one of the best players on the UNC attack. She had a hat trick in eight (8) of the Tar Heels first 11 games totaling 31 goals. She received a number of mid-season All American nominations and honors and she was well deserving. When Katie Hoeg was held scoreless versus Florida, Growney stepped up with four (4) goals.

As I have mentioned numerous times, the Notre Dame game was the turning point. This is when coaches started to realize that sliding off UNC attackers was not a successful strategy. As soon as defenders slid, Ortega, Hoeg, Growney and others would cut into the 8 meter, receiving a pass and score at will. Unless the goal had eyes in the back of her head, there was no way to defend this. Notre Dame accepted that UNC would get shots off but at least the goalie would see them. Bridget Deehan had an amazing game and the Fighting Irish almost pulled off the upset in South Bend.

Against Notre Dame, Growney only scored one (1) goal. She was then held scoreless versus UVA and didn’t even get a shot off. Prior to the Notre Dame game, Growney was shooting at a 57% clip (31 of 54). After the Notre Dame game, Growney shot 41%. (14 of 34).  Most of the games after the Notre Dame game were rematch games in which coaches and teams had the opportunity to watch tape and adjust.

When UNC needed Growney the most she did not play her best games. In the season ending game against Duke Growney was held scoreless and only had two (2) shots. In the NCAA tournament Growney scored three (3) goals on 11 shots. By the end of the season, many of Growney’s shots weren’t even making it on goal. In the NCAA tournament only six (6) of her 11 shots were on goal.

One has to wonder if the Growney of the first half of the season were around for the NCAA Tournament would UNC be the 2021 National Champions? While UNC struggled to score against Syracuse in the ACC Championship and James Madison and Stony Brook in the NCAA Tournament, they still found a way to win. The lack of scoring in the Final Four did them in against Boston College.

Growney has one more year of eligibility at UNC. We will find out if she will take that year of eligibility in the fall. Coming into her freshman season at UNC, she was ranked the #15 incoming freshman by ILWomen. The top three of that class:

  1. Andie Aldave (Notre Dame)
  2. Jamie Ortega (UNC)
  3. Alli Mastroianni (UNC)

#14 was Charlotte North.

Katie Hoeg – 2021 Season in Review

  • 38 Goals
  • 71 Assists
  • 109 Points

Katie Hoeg led the Tar Heels in assists by a wide margin and was second to Jamie Ortega in points. Her 38 goals were tied for the third most on the team.

Coming into the 2021 women’s lacrosse season Katie Hoeg and Jamie Ortega were reigning Co-Players of the Year. In 2020, the Tar Heels were 7-0 and #1 in the country prior to the COVID-19 pandemic ending the season. All signs pointed towards the Tar Heels making a run for the 2021 National Title with Katie Hoeg and Jamie Ortega leading the way.

In her super senior (5th year) season Katie Hoeg started right were she left off with a five (5) assist and seven (7) point performance versus Stony Brook. The only game of the year in which Hoeg was held scoreless was the second game of the season versus Florida. Hoeg had six (6) or more points in 11 of her 21 games and had  three (3) or more assists in 14 of the 21 games.

Her seven (7) assists against Louisville were a UNC record and her 71 assists on the second were the second most in UNC history. Her 73 assists in 2019 will likely hold as the UNC record for a very long time.

It is amazing to think that Hoeg ended her career with 233 assists after only have nine (9) in her freshman season. We can all remember the 2017 UNC team yelling “Go Hoagie” with a lanky 5’11” #8 running around in the midfield. A lot changed in Hoeg’s time wearing Carolina blue. In 2017 the 90 second shot clock was implemented and in 2018 only six (6) total players, three (3) from each team, were allowed in the midfield during draws.

This definitely sped up the game and ultimately lead to more points and scoring. Hoeg was a player that benefited greatly on the stats sheet. She demolished UNC assist records and will hold the total points record until early in 2022 when Jamie Ortega breaks it.

While some expected a Tewaaraton Award type season out of Katie Hoeg, there were only so many Tar Heels that could have been finalists. Jamie Ortega and Taylor Moreno were the two that got the nod. Some could argue that Hoeg had a better season than Ortega; especially when it came down to tight games and consistency.

In the regular season finale with Ortega sidelined, Hoeg had five (5) assists and six (6) points. In the 2021 NCAA Tournament Hoeg had six (6), six (6) and four (4) points. She had a hat trick against Boston College and did everything in her power to not end her UNC career with a loss. Unfortunately, she came up short.

In her career, she went to three different Final Fours but never won a Final Four game. Two losses to Boston College and a loss to James Madison ended the Tar Heels run in the last three full seasons.

It is hard to imagine a player getting to 233 assists. Hoeg had the luxury of passing the ball in the vicinity of Jamie Ortega and #3 would come up with it and put it in the back of the net. In her freshman season, Caitlyn Wurzburger showed signs of being a great feeder from X but Wurburger will only have Ortega for two of her four seasons in Chapel Hill. Wurzburger also won’t have seven (7) extra games from a pandemic shortened season; hopefully! Wurzburger ended her freshman year with 36 goals and 17 assists so we will have to track her progress. She will likely evolve into a scorer rather than a feeder.

Katie Hoeg came into UNC as the #6 player in the country according to the ILWomen rankings. #1 that year was none other than Kerrigan Miller. Hoeg will leave UNC as one of the greatest of all time. It was a pleasure to watch her for five years and her impact on the program will last for years to come. From her Long Island Yellow Jackets days playing with Jamie Ortega and Kerrigan Miller to the last horn in the 2021 Final Four, Katie Hoeg never quit. It is painful to type that she never won a National Championship.

Hoeg will remain in Chapel Hill and go to dental school so she will be around the program. Unfortunately, she will never wear the #8 in Carolina Blue ever again.

Jamie Ortega – 2021 Season in Review

  • 82 Goals
  • 28 Assists
  • 110 Points

Jamie Ortega led the 2021 Tar Heels in goals and points. The second leading goal scorer was Scottie Rose Growney with 36 less goals. Katie Hoeg was second on the team with 109 points coming mostly from her 71 assists.

In the first game of the season versus Stony Brook (on 2/24/21), Jamie Ortega collided with Ally Kennedy in what appeared to be a potential season ending play around midfield. This was a precursor of the physical style of play that would be inflected on Ortega all season. After going to the bench and shaking off the cobwebs, Ortega came back out late in the second half to add an assist to the scoresheet.

One has to wonder if Ortega was out for longer if it would have been better for the Tar Heel team as it would have forced other scorers to step up. We will never know.

Throughout the first half of the regular season Ortega and the Tar Heels attack was unstoppable. Even in early season games in terrible weather versus Florida and Duke, the Heels cruised to victory. Ortega was good for a hat trick in every regular season game besides the Florida game. In nine of her 21 games Ortega had six (6) points or more. She had six (6) goals or more versus Boston College, Louisville, Virginia and Notre Dame.

In regular season matchups against the teams that went on to play in the National Championship game, Ortega had six (6) goals against Boston College and five (5) goals and three (3) assists against Syracuse.

The efficiency and domination by Ortega and the Tar Heels was a blessing and a curse. During the regular season, Ortega was almost guaranteed to score on 8 meter free position shots. At one point in the season she was shooting at almost 70%, which is unheard. Then, the Notre Dame game happened and defenses better understood how to challenge the Tar Heels. It became readily apparent when Ortega sat out the final regular season game versus Duke.

Jamie Ortega will likely go down as the best without the ball offensive player in women’s lacrosse history. It helps that Katie Hoeg was passing to her all four years but Ortega is elite catching the ball in traffic and scoring. In tight situations around the goal, Ortega seemed to always come up with the ball and get it in the back of the net. What Ortega is not is a 1v1 split dodge attacker that can take the ball to goal at will. She is not Charlotte North or Izzy Scane. She excels off ball when the defense slides to help when other attackers go to goal.

The top coaches in the country figured this out later in the season and the Tar Heels went on many scoring droughts. They only scored 9 goals against Syracuse in the ACC Championship game and struggled to get the ball in the back of the net versus James Madison and Stony Brook. In the national semifinal game versus Boston College, Ortega had one goal and two (2) assists that all came in the first six minutes of the game. After that, she had zero offensive production.

As goes Ortega, so go the Heels. When Ortega had a subpar game or sat out a game (vs Duke), the Tar Heels struggled on the offensive end. We are not putting the blame on Ortega for the Boston College loss. Other players needed to step up and they simply did not. Once again, it goes back to the UNC offense taking advantage when a defender slides to help. When defenders didn’t slide, the UNC offense could not beat goalie Rachel Hall.

Jamie Ortega finished her senior season with 265 goals and 353 points. She will demolish the ACC record for goals and will make her assault on the NCAA record of 341 during her final season in 2021. She will need 77 goals to break the record and has recorded 70, 81 and 82 in her three full seasons. These were seasons with Katie Hoeg so it will be interesting to see if she is as effective without the ACC’s all time assist leader on the field with her.

Much of Ortega’s success in 2022 will likely depend on the development of Caitlyn Wurzburger. If Wurzburger can replace Hoeg at X and become an even bigger threat to score, Ortega will score 80+ goals once again. If other Tar Heels do not emerge as goal scorers, teams will implement the same face guarding defense that Boston College implemented and dare other Tar Heels to beat them.

In Jamie Ortega’s first game wearing #3, the Tar Heels lost to James Madison. She scored one goal in that game in a foreshadowing of great things to come. In the second game of her career she scored unassisted in the first minute against High Point and had a hat trick in the first half. Hundreds of goals and four years later, UNC’s best attacker ever will have a chance to make history in 2022.

No matter what happens in Ortega’s 5th year senior season, she will go down as the greatest goal scorer in UNC history. The only chapter of this story that has yet to be written is can Jamie Ortega win a national championship?

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