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Lacrosse braces for quarterfinal clash with UNC

The Tar Heels beat the Wildcats 18-13 earlier this season.

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Northwestern lacrosse is back in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015, but it’ll have to beat a difficult, familiar foe to advance to the final four.

The team standing in NU’s way is No. 2 North Carolina, which has beaten NU in the past four regualar seasons, including 18-13 earlier this season.

“The girls probably feel they didn’t play their best at that moment,” head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said, “I think that [UNC’s] a different team, they’ve improved a lot, but so have we.”

“Obviously expecting a very physical game, a very rough game,” star junior Selena Lasota said. “We haven’t been to the final four in a long time, and I think that’s a huge thing pushing us. We want this game.”

Northwestern found a groove since that March 17 matchup, winning its next eight games. It’s been the NU offense that’s made the difference during that stretch. After Hiller implemented a new offense before the season, the team has progressed steadily over the course of the season.

“We’re just getting more comfortable with what we’re running on offense,” Lasota — who has scored 17 goals in NU’s first two Tournament games — said. “We can just kind of anticipate what our teammates are doing.”

“Everybody knows their role at each particular moment,” junior Sheila Nesselbush said. “We create offense for each other.”

That growing chemistry manifested itself in Northwestern’s first two NCAA Tournament games, in which the Wildcats scored a combined 45 goals. UNC represents a tall task, but, with as well as Lasota and Nesselbush are playing, it looks like Northwestern has the firepower to pull the upset.

The game, which will begin at 12:00 p.m. CT in North Carolina’s football stadium in Chapel Hill, can be streamed at WatchESPN.com.