HEISER: Central York grad two wins from national title
- Central York graduate Lauren Moyer is the leading scorer for the North Carolina field hockey team.
- The Tar Heels will compete in the NCAA Division I Final Four this weekend in Norfolk, Virginia.
- With two wins this weekend, Moyer and her North Carolina teammates will be crowned national champs.
By the end of this coming weekend, York County may have a national champion.
Central York High School graduate Lauren Moyer is just two wins away from fulfilling a longtime dream — winning an NCAA Division I field hockey title.
Lauren is not just a bit player, either. She's a senior co-captain and the leading scorer for perennial power North Carolina, which is making its eighth straight trip to the national semifinals.
The Tar Heels own six national field hockey championships, but haven't won the crown since 2009. That means Lauren and her teammates have never experienced the thrill of raising an NCAA title trophy.
That could change by the time the weekend is over.
That's because North Carolina appears to be playing its best field hockey right now and has to be considered the favorite heading into the Final Four.
The fourth-ranked Heels (19-5) were dominant over the weekend in first- and second-round NCAA action in College Park, Maryland.
They earned a pair of 3-0 triumphs, first beating 12th-ranked Stanford and then upsetting second-ranked Maryland on its home turf.
Lauren scored a goal in the win over Maryland and leads the Heels with 22 goals and 47 points. The 5-foot, 5-inch forward also has three assists.
Career season: It's been a career season for Lauren, who had never scored more than six goals in a season in her first three years with the Heels.
"I think my success (this season) comes from the support around me," Lauren said. "(My) teammates and coaches have been pushing me to be better everyday. It's also my last season so I really wanted to make the most out of it. Not taking anything for granted has really made me try my absolute hardest in every game and practice because you never know when it is going to be your last."
Playing at nearby Maryland made for a relatively easy trip from Manchester Township for the Moyer family.
"We were overjoyed," Lauren's mother, Angeline, said. "We don't take anything for granted, and heading into the NCAA Tournament we know that every game could be the last of the season. We are thrilled to be heading to another Final Four and so thankful to be able to spend another weekend with our fantastic Carolina field hockey family. For Lauren to experience four Division I Final Fours in her four years at UNC is just amazing."
The Moyer family (Angeline, father Jon, 13-year-old brother James and grandfather Jim) plan to make the nearly 300-mile trip to Norfolk, Virginia, to cheer on Lauren at the Final Four.
They're hoping to see her add the title "national champion" to her already impressive resume.
"My time here at Carolina has been absolutely amazing. I couldn't have dreamed of it being any better," Lauren said. "The coaches, the girls and the staff have made it what it has been and I am just extremely thankful to be able to say I played for the University of North Carolina, no matter what happens in the week to come."
Final Four: In Friday's semifinal at 2 p.m., the Heels will face sixth-ranked UConn (22-1). The Huskies' only loss this season was to Maryland, 2-1.
If North Carolina wins Friday, it will move on to Sunday's 1 p.m. championship game against the winner of Friday's other semifinal between 14th-ranked Princeton (12-7) and eighth-ranked Delaware (21-2). The Heels own a 2-1 regular-season win over Princeton.
"I like our chances this weekend," Lauren said. "UConn is a great team, so (we're) really looking forward to that match-up. Focusing on Friday will likely be key for our team — looking ahead could be costly."
The surging Heels are the highest-ranked team remaining in the field.
"This is the time of year when you want to see a team peak, and it looks like Carolina is on that kind of trajectory," Angeline said.
"I think our team is peaking right now both on and off the field," she said. "We feel very prepared going into this weekend. We have worked hard since last spring and trust in that preparation."
All of the Final Four action can be watched live on NCAA.com.
Busy day: Sunday may be an exceptionally busy day for Lauren. Right after the national title contest, she is scheduled to leave with the U.S. under-21 national team for Santiago, Chile, and the Junior World Cup. That event starts Nov. 23 and runs through Dec. 4. Lauren has been a member of the under-21 national team since 2014. Earlier this year, Lauren was part of the U.S. team that won the under-21 silver medal at the Pan-Am Games in Trinidad and Tobago.
The trip to Chile is in the future, however. The No. 1 priority right now is winning that elusive NCAA championship.
If Lauren and her teammates can accomplish that feat on Sunday afternoon, it will culminate a season they'll never forget.
And York County will be able to boast that it's home to a national champion.
Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.