By: Kayla Merriweather
The Carolina women’s basketball team has experienced a topsy turvy year. While the team is ripe with young talent and seasoned veterans, several possible wins have slipped out of reach in the final minutes.
At first glance, their 12-7 overall record reflects a competitive team with room for improvement. The team came into the season hot, winning four of its first five matchups. As the season has progressed, they’ve absolutely pounded other opponents at certain points, with the margin of victory being as high as 35. However, a closer inspection of the record exposes the Tar Heels’ faults. Conference play began Jan. 2, and the team is 1-5 in the ACC, with an away record of 1-3.
Throughout the season, scoring droughts have proved to be an Achilles heel for the Tar Heels. In the second quarter against bitter rival Duke, the team went stone cold. UNC only scored four points over the stretch of the 10-minute quarter, which is a season-low. This combined with abysmal three-point shooting (4-26) stalled any hopes the Tar Heels had of defeating their cross-town opponents. Similarly, the matchup against the University of Pittsburgh was decided in the first half. During the second quarter, there was a five-minute stretch where UNC remained scoreless, and they scored just six points for the entirety of the quarter.
Scoring hasn’t been the only trouble the Carolina women’s basketball team has experienced this season. They’ve given up some close games because of rebounding difficulties as well. In their 80-77 loss to Wake Forest, the team was outrebounded 42-32. With only one player with solid experience, redshirt senior Hillary Fuller, and many young post players still developing, the inability to rebound has cost the team numerous second-chance points over the course of the season and at times even overshadows impressive performances by guards Stephanie Watts and Paris Kea.
Some of the youth on the Tar Heels this season is more local than usual. Former East basketball star Ali Cyr-Scully along with Olivia Smith, who went to Cardinal Gibbons, are representing the PAC-6 conference at the collegiate level. Cyr-Scully has adjusted to the transition from high school basketball to the NCAA quite well. One of her favorite things about the team is the camaraderie.
“Everyone on the team gets along really well,” said Cyr-Scully. “We’re all really goofy and always having a good time. Most of us live together, so we know each other really well.”
Another major difference between high school and NCAA athletics is the speed of play and the caliber of the teams.
“Everyone is just bigger, stronger, and better! The speed of the game is a lot faster, especially with the shot clock,” Cyr-Scully described.
According to Cyr-Scully, the goals of the team are to win the ACC tournament and make it to the NCAA tournament. The Lady Tar Heels last made the NCAA tournament during the 2014-2015 season, so returning would be a significant achievement. With only one active upperclassman, the Tar Heels sport the youngest roster in the nation. Once the team is able to play at a high level over the course of an entire game, they can maximize their full potential.