Offense wins games. Defense wins championships. Truth. Both of these teams' defenses often get overshadowed because their offenses are always making huge plays and running up the scoreboard. It's easier to focus on and praise. But defense is the core of any team, I truly believe that. Let's take a look at the girls holding down the fort for both teams.
As a unit, the Carolina defense is letting in only 5.40 goals per game, the lowest in the ACC by over 3 goals. It's one of the stats I'm sure they are the most proud of. This, behind the goalie with the leading save percentage in the nation. Taylor Moreno leads all goalkeepers with a .612 save percentage. .612. 6 out of 10 shots don't go in. Yikes. But we'll save the details about her for tomorrow. The bottom line is this defense is a huge reason why UNC's offense gets so many opportunities and Cuse needs to find a way to break them down. Here's UNC's starting four.
Emma Trenchard, #23, D, 5-4, Senior
Well, as far as awards are concerned, for starters: The 2021 Preseason Defender of the Year by US Lacrosse Magazine, 2021 Preseason first-team All-America by US Lacrosse and Inside Lacrosse, Preseason All-ACC for 2021. She was also on Inside Lacrosse's list of the top 50 players in college lacrosse (men and women) in 2021, ranked 10th overall, sixth among female players and was the top-ranked defender (male or female). If you want the whole list of awards, head over to the UNC website. This is all the space I have for my article. She was also a member of the U.S. National Team under UNC head coach Jenny Levy, so the chemistry between these two extends beyond the UNC playing field. Across various media outlets, Trenchard is thought of as one of the top 1v1 matchups in the country. She has started every single game of her career. If UNC plays man-to-man in the matchup, whoever UNC thinks the best player on Cuse is, that's likely who Trenchard will be guarding.Trenchard also helps out on the draw and occasionally scores as well.
2021 Stats: 1G, 2A, 3 points, 16 GB, 9CT, 10DC
Emily Nalls, #1, D, 5-8, Sophomore
Nalls is listed as a defender in the stat sheets, but in her bio she is listed as a midfielder/defender. She is a player who is defensive minded and plays defense predominantly, but also can score, assist, and handle the ball when necessary. As a freshman, Nalls was Named to Inside Lacrosse's 10-player All-Rookie Team. She was also the lone freshman starter for Carolina in 2020. As a freshman, she tied for the team lead with five caused turnovers. She also recorded seven draw controls, collected 13 ground balls, scored twice and dished out one assist. See? She really does a little bit of everything. Expect that Saturday.
2021 Stats: 1 goal, 1 points, 19GB, 7CT
Caroline Wakefield, #6, D, 5-8, Redshirt Senior
Defensive reserve as a freshman, saw time in all 20 games as a sophomore, and then was injured her junior year. She cam back to play in 2019 and saw action in 20 games, starting 9 in the defensive unit. By 2020, she had made her way fully into the starting lineup. Of course, then she was hit with a shortened season because of the pandemic. Wakefield is someone who, in my opinion, got a little unlucky. It seems like every time she was about to really hit her stride, an obstacle got in her way. But it must have made her a fighter, because she worked her way back into the starting lineup again this year and now, there really is no stopping her.
2021 Stats: 2 assists, 2 points, 13 GB, 12CT
Catie Woodruff, #16, D, 5-5, Graduate Student
Woodruff is another defender who worked hard and long to deserve the time she got on the field. Freshman year, she played in 18 of 20 games, starting the last six games of the year on the defensive side of the ball. She took the field for 12 games in her sophomore year. By her junior year, Woodruff was a starter and as a senior, the same story. One important note about Woodruff. In the 2019 game against Syracuse, she had five ground balls. Historically, she plays well against the Orange.
2021 Stats: 1 goal, 0 assists, 1 point, 15GB, 9CT
As a unit, the Cuse defense is letting in 9.14 goals per game. Higher than UNC no doubt, but still ranking 3rd in the ACC. Plus at the end of the day, it doesn't matter how much you win by, it matters that you win. The Orange has the advantage of having their goalie as the myth, the legend, Asa Goldstock. Goldstock currently ranks fourth in the nation with a .545 save percentage. But that's all I'll say for now about her. Unlike UNC's defenders who will take part in the offense occasionally, Syracue's defenders are more cut and dry. They stay in their lane and take care of the things on their side of the ledger, and let the offense do the rest. Here's Syracuse's starting four.
Kerri Defliese, #7, D, 5-7, Graduate Student
In 2020, Defliese was a Maverick Division I Second Team All-American. She was a major part of a defense that led the nation in scoring defense in 2020. She also served as team captain, started in all eight games and tied for second on the team in ground balls (15) and caused turnovers (8). Defliese is someone who had a slower start freshman year but took flight her sophomore year. In 2019 she earned All-Northeast Region First Team honors and she was voted to the All-ACC Second Team. Defliese is consistent- you always know what you're going to get with her. This, combined with her leadership ability, is why she has deserved a starting spot since 2019.
Grace Fahey, #16, D, 5-9, Senior
Fahey played in 7 games freshman year, 21 games sophomore year, and started all eight games of the 2020 season. She wasn't always a started but she was also a contributor and she has a lot of experience, which is a great thing. The more chemistry a defensive unit has, and the longer each individual player has been working with one another, the better off the defensive unit will be. Outside of her role as a solid defender, Fahey will occasionally help out on the draw. She only tallied one draw so far this year, but last year she was second on the team in draw controls with 21.
2021 Stats: 1GB, 1CTO, 1DC
Sarah Cooper, #26, D, 5-9, Junior
As a sophomore, I repeat, as a sophomore, Sarah Cooper was Maverick Division I Second Team All-American, a member of Tewaaraton Award Watch List, and led the team in caused turnovers (12). Cooper was also ranked 38th in Inside Lacrosse's List of the Top 50 Players in College Lacrosse for the 2021 season. That list is seriously heavy with Orange and Carolina blue players let me tell you. Cooper was the the only defender from the Syracuse Women's team named to the list alongside star attacker Emily Hawryschuk. Fun fact, two Syracuse Men's Lacrosse players were on the list, too. Bottom line, Cooper has been a standout since her arrival and continues to get better as she matures. Solid, and dependable.
2021 Stats: 15GB, 13CTO, 1DC
Ella Simkins, #32, D, 5-9, Graduate Student
2021 Stats: 6GB, 9CTO, 24DC
A major contributor since her sophomore year. From 2018-2021, Simkins was usually in the top 3 for most of the defensive stats. In her sophomore year, she led the team in caused turnovers with 18. In her junior year, she ranked third on the team in CT (26), and in her senior year, she ranked second in ground balls (15) and caused turnovers (8). She plays solid defense, and most every game, she has a stat to show for her performance.