As we count down to the year 2018 and imagine what the New Year will hold for UNC Athletics, let us take a moment to look back at what the first semester of the 2017-18 school year has already brought us.
First off, congratulations to UNC freshman Graham Duncan for bringing the school its first National Championship of the year. Duncan took first place in Synchronized 3-Meter Diving at the NCAA Winter Championships earlier this month. Also, big shout-out to Tar Heel alum and 4-time Olympian Shalane Flanagan becoming the first American woman to win the New York Marathon in over 40 years.
Now, to the teams:
Carlos Somoano's squad returned to the Final Four for the 2nd straight season, losing to Indiana 1-0 in the National Semifinal. The Tar Heels were led by ACC Midfielder of the Year Cam Lindley and senior striker Alan Winn. Both were named All-Americans this month, Lindley to the First Team and Winn to the Third. UNC finished with a 17-4-1 record and were ranked 2nd in the nation in scoring. Six Tar Heels in total were named to the All-ACC teams. Last week, Winn was one of 60 players invited to the MLS Combine.
The Women's team finished with a 17-3-2 record and won the ACC Championship, beating Duke twice in the process and bookending the Blue Devils' nation's-best 19-game win streak. The Tar Heels eventually fell to Princeton in the Sweet 16. English-born freshman Alessia Russo had a breakout season at forward for the Heels, being named 2nd Team All-American and ACC Co-Freshman of the Year. She would lead the Tar Heels to victory in the ACC Tournament, taking home MVP honors. She and six other Tar Heels were named to the All-ACC team.
Larry Fedora's squad did an impressive job of navigating a rash of injuries en route to two blowout victories over powerhouses Old Dominion and Western Carolina. Not only that, the Tar Heels also managed a hard-fought road victory over conference rival Pittsburgh, 34-31. They also played nine other games, but we don't need to talk about those.
The UNC Field Hockey team turned in a very successful season, winning the ACC Tournament Championship and reaching the Final Four before falling to UConn in a heartbreaking penalty shootout. The Tar Heels had three starters named All-Americans, led by First Teamers Ashley Hoffman and Eva Van't Hoog. Malin Evert was named to the Third Team. Hoffman was also named ACC Defensive Player of the Year and ACC Tournament MVP.
Congratulations to Head Coach Sylvia Hatchell for winning her 1,000th career game last week against Grambling. The Gastonia native has been at the helm for the Tar Heels for 32 years and brought the school a national championship in 1994. This year's Tar Heels currently sit at 10-2 with losses coming against Hampton and South Alabama. UNC is led by redshirt junior Paris Kea, who is averaging over 20 points a game, and freshman Janelle Bailey, who is averaging 15 points to go with 8 rebounds. The Lady Tar Heels tip off today at 2 pm against Mercer.
The defending National Champions sit at 11-2, ranked #13 in the country. The Heels have fallen to Michigan State (decisively) and Wofford (shockingly) but have good wins over Tennessee and Ohio State. The story so far has been the Captain America-esque development of Luke Maye between his sophomore and junior seasons, as well as a nearly-as-impressive leap from Kenny Williams. Joel Berry II has shaken off a hand injury to stay at the tiller for the Heels and Cameron Johnson has recently returned from a meniscus injury to show serious potential to what he can bring to the team. The freshman bigs and Jalek Felton have shown flashes, particularly Felton against Ohio State. How they develop as the year goes on will determine whether UNC will be a good team or a great one.