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2015 College Lacrosse Preview: North Carolina's "Pressure"

The Tar Heels haven't made a Championship Weekend appearance since 1993. Is this the season the Heels break through?

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Lacrosse Magazine interviewed a host of opposing coaches to get their feel on the nation's best teams. Using a quote from those coaches, we're building out context to a specific thought.

The quote:

"Always have to be ranked high. Will break through eventually."

This is the Tar Heels' reality: There's only so much more that Carolina can do to max out its potential. The Heels have been among the nation's best teams over the last four seasons but have bowed out of the NCAA Tournament earlier than expected, a casualty of the win-or-eat-potato-chips-on-the-couch nature of college lacrosse's most important event.

NORTH CAROLINA FINAL MATH-TYPE RANKINGS: 2011-2014
YEAR LAXPOWER aPyth. MASSEY KRACH AVG.
2014 5 2 12 7 6.5
2013 2 4 3 3 3.0
2012 13 17 11 11 13.0
2011 10 14 9 9 10.50

North Carolina has been right where it has had to be to make the push to Championship Weekend over the last two seasons but hasn't been able to complete its final ascent. Only seven teams have been stronger than the Tar Heels over the last four seasons based on average adjusted Pythagorean win expectation rank and only five teams have increased their adjusted Pythagorean win expectation value more than Carolina since 2012. The Heels have been right where they've needed to be and have made the kinds of improvements indicative of a team prepared to shed their history, but tough losses at the apex of the year have ultimately extended the team's almost inconceivable Final Four drought.

2015 does provide a platform to great heights, though: Nine of the team's 12 players that earned starts last season for the Tar Heels return to Chapel Hill for another run at total victory. Waiving goodbye to only 20 percent of its starts from 2014, five of the team's top six scorers from 2014 (accounting for over 55 percent of the team's points last season) will buoy the Heels' offense in 2015 while two starting close defensemen, the team's starting keeper, a highly active long-stick midfielder, and a presence at the face-off dot are all back to help support the team's hope for a May adventure. This is the year for Carolina, if only because there are only so many this-is-the-years that a program can maintain without finally meeting its destiny.