CWS Appearance Concludes Banner Year for UNC

North Carolina’s appearance in the College World Series may not have ended the way the Tar Heels had hopes, with a loss to UCLA to end the season. However, it was an exclamation point on a strong season of athletics for the program.

Tar Heel teams won three Atlantic Coast Conference Championships in 2012-13, as well as two national championships. Currently, North Carolina is 10th in the Director’s Cup standings, and they will presumably move up in the final standings that include the baseball team’s performance following the conclusion of the College World Series.

The football team was not eligible for postseason play due to NCAA sanctions resulting from their 2010 investigation. If they had been eligible for the postseason, however, they would have played for the ACC Championship after an 8-4 campaign. The most memorable moment of the season came against NC State, when Giovani Bernard returned a punt for a game-winning touchdown.

Meanwhile, North Carolina’s field hockey squad won the ACC Championship, with Caitlin Van Sickle named the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year for the third consecutive season. The Tar Heels reached their fourth consecutive National Championship game, but lost to Princeton 3-2 on a penalty stroke in the 60th minute.

In one sense, UNC’s women’s soccer team had one of its worst seasons in program history. 2012 was the fourth year in 34 seasons under Anson Dorrance that the team lost five games. However, it was still another banner year for the powerhouse, as the team overcame those losses to defeat Penn State 4-1 in the College Cup final and claim their 21st NCAA Championship.

Another historic program in Chapel Hill, the men’s basketball team, had a rough start to their campaign. With losses to Butler, Indiana, and Texas during the non-conference schedule, the Tar Heels seemed destined to hang around the NCAA Tournament bubble. However, a lineup change that placed sophomore sharpshooter PJ Hairston in the starting five boosted the Tar Heels to an appearance in the ACC Tournament finals.

It was also a good year for lacrosse in Chapel Hill. UNC men’s lacrosse won the ACC Championship, defeating Virginia 16-13 in the title game. The Tar Heels entered the NCAA Tournament as the top-ranked team in the nation, but lost in the quarterfinals to Denver.

On the women’s side, the Tar Heels won the national championship, defeating Maryland 13-12 in triple overtime. Senior Kara Cannizzaro won the Honda Award (national player of the year) and the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, while coach Jenny Levy was named Inside Lacrosse’s National Coach of the Year.

Then, there’s the North Carolina baseball team. The Tar Heels had the ACC’s Player and Pitcher of the Year in Colin Moran and Kent Emanuel, and won the ACC Championship against Virginia Tech hours after an 18-inning game against NC State. The Tar Heels earned the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and won the Chapel Hill Regional and Super Regional before their downfall in Omaha.

The 2013-14 year will be quite different for the Tar Heels. Gone will be the postseason ban in football, but they will also be without Bernard and fellow NFL draft picks Jonathan Cooper, Sylvester Williams, Brennan Williams, and Travis Bond. Reggie Bullock has entered his name into this week’s NBA Draft, and question marks hover around Hairston following a recent arrest and the news that his relationship with agent Rodney Blackstock is under investigation. Moran and Emanuel were both selected early in the MLB Draft and will likely be gone, along with 18 graduated players from the two national championship teams.

Nonetheless, they will enter next year with five consecutive finishes in the top ten of the Director’s Cup. The Tar Heels won the 2012-13 Capital One Cup for women’s athletics on the strength of the soccer and lacrosse titles. So if that track record is any indication, there will be plenty of reasons to celebrate in Chapel Hill next year, too.