Before Jamie Ortega’s senior season with the Middle Country girls lacrosse team, the Centereach native told Newsday that she chose to play collegiately at North Carolina for the chance to chase national championships.
Well, here’s her chance.
The freshman is one of six Long Island talents for No. 2 UNC (17-3), which opens the NCAA Division I women’s lacrosse semifinals at Stony Brook’s LaValle Stadium on Friday with a 5 p.m. tilt against No. 3 James Madison (20-1).
Ortega, the state’s second all-time leading scorer with 588 points, has started all 20 games, totaling 66 goals and 15 assists. Coach Jenny Levy said she’s been as good as advertised.
“She came in super prepared as a freshman this year and the results are showing on the field,” Levy said. “But it didn’t surprise us, and we’re excited that what we thought came true, and a lot of credit goes to Jamie for just all the work that she’s put in.”
UNC’s Taylor Moreno, a goalkeeper from Huntington, is tasked with shutting down a James Madison offense led by Tewaaraton finalist Kristen Gaudian. James Madison ranks 12th in the nation with 15.76 goals per game, led by Gaudian’s 74. Elena Romesburg is second with 63.
Moreno, who wasn’t the starter during JMU’s 15-14 double-overtime win against UNC in early February, made 17 saves in UNC’s quarterfinal win over Northwestern. She’s been among the nation’s top goalies this postseason.
James Madison has never won an NCAA championship, while North Carolina last won in 2016 — right before Ortega officially signed her letter of intent. In her first season with the Tar Heels, Ortega could help bring the title back to Chapel Hill.
No. 1 Maryland vs. No. 4 Boston College
In a rematch of last season’s championship game — which Maryland won, 16-13 — Maryland and Boston College enter off thrilling quarterfinal wins.
Maryland (20-1) faced a three-goal deficit with 18 minutes to play but outlasted Navy, 17-15. Boston College (21-1), down 11-8 late in the second half to Stony Brook, won in overtime, 12-11.
Last season’s loss to the Terrapins is an afterthought, though, according to BC coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein.
“It’s just a totally different team. A totally different path,” she said. “So no, I think it’s just exciting that the girls, they get to go back, they have a little bit more experience than they did last year, but we’re not really thinking much about last year.”
Boston College is explosive, with West Babylon’s Sam Apuzzo and Babylon’s Kaileen Hart headlining a fast transition offense. They’ll have to compete with Maryland’s man-to-man defense, a stark contrast to Stony Brook’s zone.
Apuzzo is also a force on the draw, and her impact in the circle will be integral in an upset of the Terps, who have appeared in five straight championship games (of which they’ve won three).
Kali Hartshorn will likely oppose Apuzzo in the circle, and she must get the ball to an offense that thrives off the play of Megan Whittle, the Tewaaraton finalist with 83 goals.
“Winning draws are key in any game,” Maryland coach Cathy Reese said. “They equal possessions. So, it’s definitely an area of focus, and it will be an area that’s a challenge, especially against a team that has had such success at it all season long.”
LONG ISLANDERS IN THE FINAL FOUR
Maryland: Nikki Sliwak (Wantagh)
North Carolina: Maggie Bill (St. Anthony’s/Huntington), Katie Hoeg (Mattituck), Maddie Hoffer (Sachem North/Stony Brook), Kate Kotowski (Cold Spring Harbor/Lloyd Harbor), Taylor Moreno (Huntington), Jamie Ortega (Middle Country/Centereach)
James Madison: Natalie Fuccillo (Eastport-South Manor/Eastport), Corinne Schmidt (Bay Shore/Brightwaters), Rebecca Tooker (Eastport-South Manor/Eastport), Tara Wahl (Farmingdale)
Boston College: Sam Apuzzo (West Babylon), Maggie Casey (Sacred Heart/Garden City), Lauren Daly (Shoreham-Wading River/Shoreham), Kaileen Hart (Babylon), Abbey Ngai (Cold Spring Harbor), Cailee Perettine (Farmingdale), Cara Urbank (Sacred Heart/Mineola)
NCAA Division I women’s lacrosse championship weekend
Friday at LaValle Stadium
5 p.m.: No. 2 North Carolina vs. No. 3 James Madison, ESPN3
7 p.m.: No. 1 Maryland vs. No. 4 Boston College, ESPN3
Sunday at LaValle Stadium
Noon: North Carolina-James Madison winner vs. Maryland-Boston College winner, ESPN3