Defending champion Tar Heels women’s lacrosse opens season against Gators

Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network

Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The top-ranked and defending NCAA-champion North Carolina Tar Heels begin defense of their national title when they host the No. 4 Florida Gators at Fetzer Field on Saturday.

The Tar Heels and Gators will begin their 2014 season by taking the draw against one another on opening day for the fourth year in a row.

The Tar Heels begin the season after claiming their first championship trophy by toppling the then-unbeaten and top-ranked Maryland Terrapins in a triple-overtime final back in May.

North Carolina returns nine starters and 24 letterwinners from last year’s team, including preseason All-Americas in attacker Abbey Friend, defender Sloane Serpe and defender Margaret Corzel.

Senior midfielder Brittney Coppa, also a preseason All-America selection, will not begin the season with the team after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her knee during the preseason.

In goal, the Tar Heels will be led by sophomore goalie Megan Ward who started the last seven games of 2013 and earned All-NCAA Tournament honors, and will have back-up support from highly-touted freshman Caylee Waters.

Serpe and Corzel are expected to anchor the defense along with sophomore Mallory Frysinger and juniors Caileigh Sindall and Courtney Waite, all of whom have starting experience.

Seniors Friend and Taylor George will lead the attack unit, along with sophomore Aly Messinger, who earned All-NCAA Tournament honors last year.

With Coppa out, head coach Jenny Levy will need to work on reestablishing the midfield after also losing Kara Cannizzaro, Emily Garrity and Jessica Griffin to graduation.

Levy, now in her 19th season at North Carolina, and her staff have brought in a strong freshman class that has been ranked as the best in the nation and should help to fill voids quickly.

North Carolina leads the all-time series against Florida, 3-1, winning the first three meetings in 2010, 2011 and 2012, while he Gators won the two teams’ last matchup in 2013.

The Tar Heels are 14-4 all-time in season-opening games and have won seven of their last eight – a streak that was ended in their 5-3 loss to Florida last year.

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