Levy Leads Carolina to the Mountaintop, Earns #BestOfLax
|Jenny Levy and her team vanquished two longtime bugaboos - Northwestern and then Maryland - in the NCAA final four to earn her program's first title. (Peyton Williams)|
In hindsight, Jenny Levy found it appropriate that her North Carolina team had to go through both Northwestern and Maryland to win its first NCAA championship. "Those are the two programs that have given us the most fits, but we respect them," she said. "They push us, and we measure ourselves against the work that those teams do to come out on the field the way that they do."
The Tar Heels served notice that they were up to the challenge against Northwestern, taking an 11-4 NCAA semifinal win that denied the Wildcats what would have been a ninth straight appearance in the championship game. Two days later, they topped previously unbeaten Maryland in triple overtime, breaking a school record for wins and allowing Levy to silence the detractors who thought North Carolina might never win it all under her watch.
The vanquishing of the two bugaboos — Northwestern eliminated the Tar Heels in three of the last four NCAA tournaments, including a 21-7 drubbing in the 2009 final, and Maryland had defeated them twice this season — was the icing on the cake for a coach who saw her program finally break through to the rarified championship air after years of building the program to be among the best in the country.
"We've been right there knocking at the door, doing it the right way," said Levy, who enters the 2014 season, her 19th in Chapel Hill, as the sixth-winningest coach in NCAA history. "We were able to do it and stay true to who we are and what we do."
Leading her team to a perfect regular season and continuing through to the cusp of the championship - only to fall in the epic finals to Levy's Tar Heels - earned Maryland's Cathy Reese the fan nod in online voting for the award. Levy was just a few points behind, while Team USA coach Ricky Fried and Canada's Alexis Venechanos also pulled decent numbers in the fan vote.
Cathy Reese, Maryland - 38%
Jenny Levy, North Carolina - 32%
Ricky Fried, Team USA - 13%
Alexis Venechanos, Canada - 11%
Katie Woods, UConn - 6%