It was nearly midnight on May 29, but the women’s lacrosse team bus had one final stop to make before unloading. Earlier that day, the No. 1 Tar Heels had won a national championship, beating No. 3 Boston College, 12-11, and capping an undefeated season. Now, the Bell Tower was shining in blue just for them, so a team photo was in order.
“It’s not every day you do something that gets the Bell Tower lit blue,” said Jenny Levy, the only head coach the program has ever known.
The photographer forgot her flash, but that was no obstacle. The players used their phones’ flashlights to illuminate their faces. “It was so much cooler like that than it would’ve been with the flash,” Assistant Coach Emily Parros said.
Levy started the program from scratch at age 24, and since the first season in 1996, it’s been clear she was the perfect choice. Undefeated this year (22-0) and now with three national championships, the team has appeared in 13 Final Fours, including 10 of the last 13.
In this year’s semifinal in Baltimore, a shot at another title seemed out of reach when the Tar Heels found themselves trailing Northwestern 14-7 with just 10 minutes left. Suddenly they ripped off eight straight goals — five coming from Sam Geiersbach, the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player — to escape with a narrow 15-14 victory.
Jamie Ortega, the star player on a team loaded with nine All-Americans, faced smothering defensive attention all weekend. Even so, she said she knew the Tar Heels would be “unstoppable.” She was right. — Mike Ogle ’02
To read more about the women’s lacrosse national championship and how Coach Levy built the program into a national powerhouse, look for a feature in the upcoming July/August issue of the Carolina Alumni Review.