Before anything else, let me just give a shout out to my boss Mike McCallister for letting me write pretty much anything that I want and giving me all the creative freedom in the world. I really appreciate that guy.
Let’s get right to it then. Syracuse. UNC. 11am. This is the most anticipated college women’s lacrosse matchup of the year. As such, Syracuse on SI has you covered with the in-depth coverage all week long. I am going to be writing about the matchups in each position. Now, make no mistake—all of these matchups are going to be fierce, intense, and gritty. However, I decided to start off the positional matchup previews with the attacking end. Both of these teams have had extremely, scary, high-scoring offenses. Both teams’ offenses are so good that many of their games have been blowouts, which makes this upcoming Saturday’s game all the more exciting. With that being said, let’s take a look at the attackers on both sides for Saturday.
UNC’s offense is an absolute powerhouse. There’s no other way to describe it. Their offense is primarily veteran players who have spent years building up chemistry with each other. They are also one of, if not the most versatile offenses in all of college lacrosse. They have athletes like Jamie Ortega, a fearless player who is one of UNC’s best dodgers and has no issue taking it to the cage on her own. They have athletes like Katie Hoeg—a player who can thread the needle through the smallest of spaces and put the ball right on the mark. It is this versatility, fearlessness, power and I can’t emphasize this enough, HEIGHT (tall girls rule the world), that makes UNC’s offense so deadly. Let’s take a look at who the players behind this offense are.
Jamie Ortega, #3, A, 5-6, Senior
Three-time All-American, reigning Inside Lacrosse Co-National Player of the Year (along with who else, teammate Katie Hoeg). Entered 2021 tied for fourth in school history in career goals with 183 and fifth in career points with 243. Need I continue? No. But I’m going to anyway. Her career points per game of 4.96 entering the season is the best in UNC history. Her 3.73 career goals per game average was also by far the best in school history. Molly Hendrick followed behind Ortega with 2.48. Ortega is on Inside Lacrosse's list of the Top 50 players in college lacrosse (men and women) in 2021, ranking sixth overall and third among female players behind only Ally Kennedy and Syracuse’s Emily Hawryschuk. Want a little more on Ortega? 2021 Preseason Attacker of the Year by US Lacrosse Magazine. 2021 Preseason first-team All-America by US Lacrosse and Inside Lacrosse, and last but not least, Preseason All-ACC for 2021.
Also, of note is that this year, Ortega has since become the women’s lacrosse programs all-time leading goal scorer. She currently has 226 goals (sheesh).
Let me just say this, too. The most dangerous thing about Ortega is her humility. She literally broke the school record for goals and she didn’t even know. Not worried about the numbers, all energy on winning the ship. Dangerous all around.
Ortega on becoming the women’s lacrosse program’s all-time leading goal scorer via Chapelboro.com:
“To be honest, I really didn’t know I was even close to breaking the record until a couple of my teammates told me,” Ortega said after the game. “Once I broke the record, I was reflecting on all my years here and how far everyone on this team has come. Each year, I appreciate my teammates more and more. Yes, I’m the one that broke the record, but it’s such a team accomplishment.”
Stats in 2021: 43 goals, 14 assists, 57 points (300 career—congrats Jamie)
Katie Hoeg, #8, A, 5-11, Redshirt Senior
Before 2021 even started, Hoeg was UNC’s career leader in both points and goals. What do you even have to work towards at that point? She literally broke every record already? I guess she could go for the Carolina single-season assists record. Wait, I just read further down in her bio. She already did that too (73 in 2019) so scratch that. But in all seriousness, this girl is different. And it’s not because she was the reigning Inside Lacrosse Co-National Player of the Year (along with teammate Jamie Ortega), on Inside Lacrosse's list of the top 50 players in college lacrosse (men and women) in 2021, ranking seventh overall and fourth among female players, 2021 Preseason first-team All-America by US Lacrosse and Inside Lacrosse, or preseason All-ACC for 2021. It’s literally not because of any of these reasons, but she was all of those things.
This is why she’s different: she’s one of the hardest workers in college lacrosse. “Sam, how do you quantify hard work? Where did you pull your statistic to prove how hard of a worker she is?” I guess I can’t actually prove it, but you have to trust me on this. The thing that makes KH different is unlike 95% of Long Island laxers, Hoeg’s high school team wasn’t very good because they were brand spanking new. So, the way that UNC literally whoops teams now by 20 goals, that’s what used to happen to Hoeg in Mattituck, but she was on the losing side of it. I tell you this because I think it really shaped her. She knows what it feels like to lose, which is why she’s all the more motivated to win. By the way, her hard work extends beyond the field. She was the valedictorian in high school. Maybe she will be when she graduates college too. I honestly wouldn’t doubt it.
Stats in 2021: 19 goals, 31 assists, 50 points, 1DC
Scottie Rose Growney, #15, A, 5-9, Senior
This is a different type of a player than the two aforementioned. Growney wasn’t always a standout, but she stepped up when it counted, and she got better every year with the statistics to back it up. Freshman year she had 6 goals and 0 assists, sophomore year she had 21 goals and 4 assists, junior year she had 22 goals and 5 assists, and this year she has 27 goals and 16 assists (surpassing any of her former numbers) and the season is far from over. This is someone who worked tirelessly to earn a spot on that UNC starting lineup and now she has it. A little bit quieter than the Ortega-Hoeg duo, but sometimes the quiet, unsuspecting players turn out to be the deadliest. We’ll find out Saturday.
Stats in 2021: 27 goals, 16 assists, 43 points, 8DC
Taylor Warehime, #22, A, 5-9, Junior
The youngest of the bunch but you’d never know it. Warehime was thrown into the mix and became an impact player immediately upon her arrival which, at a school like UNC, is pretty impressive. Freshman year she scored goals in 15 of 21 games including a season high of six in the ACC Tournament vs. Virginia Tech, which signals to me that she shows out in high-pressure situations. By sophomore year she tied for fourth on the team in scoring with 12 points and now in her junior year she’s earned herself a starting spot in every single game. Not a single game she hasn’t scored in, and eight games where she has 2 goals or more. The bottom line with Warehime is she’s a scoring threat. Her goals far outweigh her assists, so if she has the ball, she’s likely to go to cage. She has come into her own, and she still has time to grow.
Stats in 2021: 21 goals, 2 assists, 23 points
Fifth man in: Caitlin Wurzburger, #13, A, 5-4, Fr.
This is honestly the scariest part of the entire offensive preview and I’ll tell you why. When your fifth man is Inside Lacrosse’s top-ranked incoming freshman in the nation for the 2021 season, the nation’s all-time leading scorer in high school with 1,027 points, and a six-year varsity starter what in god’s name are the starting four capable of? Oh my.
As far as the ACC statistics are concerned, Ortega is 1st in points and goals in the ACC by a mile and Hoeg leads the ACC in assists. As a unit, UNC’s margin of victory is 11.5, good for best in the conference. As far as attack is concerned, Hoeg and Ortega are the two players that undoubtedly need to be shut down, or, at the very least, slowed down.
Now with Syracuse, I would assume that if you follow along with the content, you know these girls a bit better. But I’ll still give you a little more insight and a refresher on our starting four.
Megan Carney, #22, A, 5-5, Junior
The best thing about Megan Carney and Meaghan Tyrell is their both juniors, so we get them for a while longer (thank god). Carney was an impact player from her freshman year and honestly, my opinion, she’s become the team’s offensive leader since Hawryschuk’s devastating season-ending injury. I think there were a lot of people who, after that happened, lost a lot of faith in what this year could be. But Carney was a major contributor in in putting the doubters to rest. The team really fought back and have found their groove since then for sure. ACC wise, Carney is 3rd in goals per game (3.67), tied for second with her bestie in points per game (5.50), and 6th in assists per game. She also is first in the ACC in shots per game (7.83). This is good because it means she isn’t afraid to keep letting it rip. Against a goalkeeper like Moreno, that’s what you have to do.
Stats in 2021: 22 goals, 11 assists, 33 points
Meaghan Tyrell, #18, A, 5-2, Junior
One of Mount Sinai’s many prodigies. Again, this is someone who stepped foot in the field since the minute she moved to upstate New York. I can’t stress enough that experience is key. The more people on the field who have played together for a long time, the better off the team will be. Tyrrell is one of the more versatile people in the attacking end. She scores, she dodges, she cuts, she assists, she really does whatever is needed of her at that moment. She has a really solid mixture of confidence and selflessness. No problem taking it to the house, but also no probem giving the ball up if she sees someone has a better angle. Last thing I’ll say about Tyrrell is very minimal mistakes. She’s a very consistent player and you always know that she’ll produce good results. In the ACC, Tyrrell is 5th in goals per game (3.33), tied for 2nd with Carney in points for game (5.50), and 3rd in assists per game (2.17).
Stats in 2021: 20 goals, 13 assists, 33 points
Emily Ehle, #35, A, 5-11, Graduate Student
Ehle has had such an interesting journey and I don’t think people talk about it enough. She’s an upstate native from B-ville who transferred from Georgetown to use her fifth year of eligibility at Cuse and she has had a starting spot since the first game. It’s a neat little story. In her career at Georgetown, she had 52 goals, 64 assists, 116 points, and 1DC. Her senior year at Georgetown, she was 4th in goals, 4th in points, and 1st in assists. Her last year, though, she wanted to switch it up so she came to Syracuse and has truly made a name for herself in a short amount of time. Again, this is a player who is a little quieter, but she is doing all of the work between the thirties that no one really talks about. She’s gritty on the ride and will work hard to get a possession back. Consistency is her middle name.
Stats in 2021: 3 goals, 7 assists, 10 points
Emma Ward, #44, A, 5-2, Fr.
I love all of these Cuse girls equally and know many of them personally but for some reason Emma Ward just holds a special place in my heart and I’ve never spoken one word to her. You just can’t not love her. Freshman but the confidence of a senior. Has improved legitimately every single game. Her Syracuse male counterpart is Owen Hiltz. Future Nicole Levy. Real ones get that reference. This is the best thing about Ward. Saturday is going to come, and she will be the least phased player on the field. I literally don’t think she gets nervous and that’s what’s so endearing. Cool, calm, collected. Not worried about anything but the game in front of her. Smart and she knows when to get out of the way to open up room for the players on her team who are bigger threats.
From the bottom of my heart, I hope she gets an 8-meter because she is the only player with the balls to rip it from the 8 on Taylor Moreno. I have no idea whether or not it would go in, probably not because it’s Taylor Moreno but the point Emma Ward would try it and I would ship that so hard. I hope we get the chance to find out. Saturday is going to be wild.
Stats in 2021: 9g, 7a, 16 points
Fifth man in: Morgan Alexander, #1, A, 5-10, Graduate Student
If nothing else, you have to admire Alexander’s dedication to stay in the game. She never gives up. She’s going on her sixth year now, after a few season-ending injuries. Although she has had to take a couple of seasons off, she’s always added something for the Orange when she’s at full strength.
Stats in 2021: 4 goals, 0 assists, 4 points
And if you think this is a lot to handle, just wait for the midfield, defense, and goalies. See you back here tomorrow.