NCAA lacrosse: Storylines to watch as the tournament begins

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The NCAA lacrosse tournament kicks off Friday as the nation’s top teams look to win the title.

No. 1 North Carolina, No. 2 Maryland and No. 3 Boston College all received first-round byes and await their opponents in the second round. While Boston College will be looking to repeat, UNC is looking to finish what it started last year. Meanwhile Maryland is aiming to add to its long list of titles.

The team to watch: North Carolina

Can the Tar Heels (18-0) accomplish what they couldn’t last year?

In 2021, North Carolina finished the regular season undefeated and made it all the way to the NCAA semifinal before it was upended by eventual champion Boston College. The Tar Heels ended the season 20-1.

Never before has UNC finished a season undefeated, not even in its two NCAA championship seasons (2013, 2016).

With a roster of five graduate students and six seniors, all of whom have made it to the Final Four twice, the Tar Heels are aiming to make history this season. And their players, who all joined the program after the 2016 title, are looking for a championship.

“It’s not a great feeling, I think it always stays with me, and after each year it kind of gets worse,” UNC attacker Jamie Ortega said. “I think it’s always fueling me and my teammates and my coaches. There’s never a day that goes by where we don’t think about it; you think about losing and coming up short.”

Of the Tar Heels’ 18 wins this season, 12 have come against ranked opponents. They have gone 6-0 against top-10 teams and 4-0 against top-five teams.

Players to watch: Stanford’s Ashley Humphrey, Maryland’s Aurora Cordingley, Boston College’s Charlotte North

While UNC’s Ortega and Syracuse’s Meaghan Tyrrell are certainly ones to watch this tournament, other names could shake things up.

Stanford’s Ashley Humphrey scored the second-most points in the NCAA this season with 120. To reach that 120-point milestone, she scored 36 goals and added 84 assists through 18 games. The sophomore attacker helped to propel her team to the Pac-12 regular season and tournament titles.

Graduate attacker Aurora Cordingley has been a major piece of a strong Maryland team. With 15 NCAA titles, the Terrapins have the most of any women’s lacrosse team. After joining Maryland from Johns Hopkins – where she managed 57 points her senior year – Cordingley helped lead Maryland back to the Big Ten title and was named Big Ten attacker of the year in the process. She has 111 points on the season, nearly doubling her career-best points total from her time at Johns Hopkins.

Charlotte North has been a staple of the Boston College offense for the past three years after transferring from Duke. The defending Tewaaraton Award winner hasn’t let off the gas this season, contributing 94 points to an Eagles team that is looking to repeat as champion after winning its first title last year. With 75 goals, she leads all players in this year’s tournament.

How to watch:

All of the early round games will air on ESPN+. The semifinals will air on Friday, May 27, on ESPNU at 3 and 5 p.m. ET. The championship game will air live on ESPN on Sunday, May 29, at 12 p.m. ET.