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North Carolina's Emily Nalls.

2024 NCAA Lacrosse Preview: No. 3 North Carolina (Women)

January 31, 2024
Charlotte Varnes
Nell Redmond /

The 2024 Division I women's college lacrosse season kicks off February 9. As is our annual tradition, we’re featuring every team ranked in the USA Lacrosse Preseason Top 20 in the lead up to opening day. 


2023 Record: 16-5 (7-2, ACC)
Final Ranking (2023): No. 5
Head Coach: Jenny Levy
Assistants: Phil Barnes, Marie McCool, Aurora Cordingley

North Carolina is not so young anymore.

Its attack, primarily composed of underclassmen, learned plenty through the ups and downs of the ACC schedule before powering the Tar Heels to the NCAA quarterfinals in 2023. Now, UNC’s offense is kicking off the season with far fewer question marks and much more experience than last year.

“[Our attackers] are all a year better,” coach Jenny Levy said. “They understand what we want. They’re able to do more within their game, but also help the younger guys coming in.”

The coaches asked a lot of the young players last season, Levy said. Their hard work amid a rebuild didn’t go unnoticed, as the Tar Heels finished fifth despite losing much of their offensive production from 2022.

Now a year older and wiser, UNC’s attackers will prove even more of a factor. Levy has seen growth from last season show up on her more-seasoned offense this offseason. She pointed to sophomore attackers like Marissa White, Caroline Godine and Kiley Mottice as standouts with more experience under their belt.

While plenty is different on attack, Levy said there’s one big similarity to last preseason: uncertainty with how everything will shake out. Levy won’t know exactly who the Tar Heels are until the season begins.


Reilly Casey, A, R-Jr. (38G, 38A)
Emily Nalls, D, Gr. (33GB, 30CT, 48DC)
Alecia Nicholas, GK, Jr. (151SV, .466SV%)

Expect North Carolina to field yet another strong defense in 2024. Nicholas broke out as a first-year starter last season and will return alongside top defenders like Nalls and Brooklyn Walker-Welch. Levy said she feels confident about the unit, noting the strong goalkeeping crew of Nicholas and freshman Betty Nelson (though Nicholas will remain the starter).


Ashley Humphrey, A, Gr. (33G, 42A at Stanford in 2023)
Chloe Humphrey, A, Fr. (209G, 80A in high school career)
Betty Nelson, GK, Fr. (542 SVs in high school career)

UNC will welcome the Humphrey show to campus this spring, as Stanford transfer Ashley will join her highly regarded freshman sister Chloe in Chapel Hill. Levy said it sometimes takes freshmen time to adjust to the college level of play, but not Chloe Humphrey. The first-year star is creative and sees the game at a high level. Her older sister, the NCAA single-season assist record holder (88), spent her fall wrapping up at Stanford and joined the Tar Heels in January. Levy noted Ashley’s strong playmaking and ball distribution, saying she’s excited to roll Ashley out this spring.


Graduations: Brooklyn Neuman, M; Elizabeth Hillman, M; Lauren Figura, A
Transfers: Nicole Humphrey, A (USC); Melissa Sconone, A (Hofstra)

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Eva Ingrilli (73G, 64A in two varsity seasons)

Ingrilli, a freshman attacker, will likely factor into the Tar Heels’ young-yet-experienced offense. Levy said Ingrilli came in prepared and impressed the coaching staff this fall. Her strengths include feeding, playing off ball, dodging and having a high lacrosse IQ. She expects Ingrilli to take some pressure off the Tar Heels’ other attackers.


The Tar Heels’ significant youth proved challenging at times in 2023, as they struggled against top ACC opponents like Syracuse and Boston College. Was this a blip on the radar, or does UNC still have some growing up to do?

Although UNC fell to Denver in the NCAA quarterfinals, its youngest stars seemed to grow more confident throughout the season — an encouraging sign for 2024.

Casey scored nine goals through the Tar Heels’ three postseason games in 2023, White scored six and Godine tallied three. On the defensive end, Nicholas anchored strong defensive performances — including holding Denver to five goals. Their confidence appeared unshaken despite postseason challenges, and the group seems poised for another deep run in the conference and NCAA tournaments.

What makes Levy believe this squad can rise to the top of the ACC again?

“I know that we’re really tough and gritty,” Levy said. “I don’t think that we’ve arrived. I know that we are going to be working to arrive, and we’re going to be a really dangerous team as things start to unfold. If we can continue to develop like we did last year, I think we will be a really scary team throughout the ACC schedule.”


“UNC last year was really, really young. They had a lot of young people and playing a lot of minutes. I know they return a lot, brought some transfers in and have a great freshman class. I’d expect them to be very athletic, very talented. Same as usual: competing and in the hunt.”


While North Carolina is returning a strong core, the departure of Nicole Humphrey poses a challenge, as she accounted for 9% of the team’s shots and finished the year with an 84th-percentile efficiency rating. Fortunately, UNC is adding not one, but two Humphreys to the 2024 roster. You thought that they faced a Humphrey deficit, but in fact, it’s a Humphrey surplus! The Heels finished as the 3rd-best opponent-adjusted offense in the nation in 2023, so whether the new Humphreys are an effective substitute for the lost Humphrey is a high-stakes question.

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