A Commitment to the Carolina Family: The Leadership of Jenny Levy

By Dave Lohse
Deputy Director of Sports Information, retired

In the long and successful history of women’s sports at the University of North Carolina, only two of the 15 varsity teams have known only one head coach – Anson Dorrance to soccer and Jenny Levy at the butt.

Their career paths have been similar: they both served as head coaches of their respective U.S. national teams, both won multiple NCAA and ACC championships, and both are considered to be at the top of their game.

“Jenny’s greatest asset as a coach is the fact that she draws on her own personal foundations in her beliefs, but she is a constant innovator,” said Kara Cannizzarothe first-team Honda award winner of Levy’s national title in 2013. “She invites change. She’s never satisfied with what she’s done as a coach in the past.”

Levy is only the fourth person to play and coach a national championship women’s lacrosse team. His overall record as the Tar Heels’ primary mentor has been exemplary. Carolina has won six ACC Tournament Championships, including the last five in a row (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021). His team had 21 NCAA Quarterfinals appearances, 12 NCAA Semifinals appearances, four NCAA Championship Game appearances and NCAA titles in 2013 and 2016.

Seven women’s sports began at the varsity level at Carolina in 1971-72, but women’s soccer and women’s lacrosse would be added later. Football was added in 1979, and it took another 15 years before Carolina added women’s lacrosse in 1994. In October of that year, Jenny (Slingluff) Levy was named the Tar Women’s Lacrosse Coach. Heels by then sporting director John Swofford in what is now considered a brilliant hire.

Levy played in Virginia, graduated in 1992 and led the Cavaliers to the 1991 NCAA championship. She then spent nearly two years as an assistant lacrosse and field hockey coach at Georgetown before coming to Carolina.

With a recommendation from former UNC men’s lacrosse coach Willie Scroggs, Levy was granted an interview despite understanding that she was a clear underdog for the job among the final four.

“I flew in for the interview and it was my first time to Chapel Hill,” Levy said. “I came with a written plan and a vision of what I thought the program could be. I arrived on a Tuesday evening, interviewed all day on a Wednesday and on Thursday John Swofford called me home in DC and offered me the job. I accepted it on the spot. I didn’t need time to think about it.

When Levy arrived at Chapel Hill in November 1994, she spent the next year and a half making all the necessary arrangements to prepare the team to play its first game in March 1996, a 10-4 win over Colgate at Chapel Hill. . Since that day, Levy has notched 381 wins, making her the third most successful coach in NCAA Division I history by number of wins.

Levy’s first team included UNC club team players in their junior and senior years, a UNC field hockey player, two Carolina football players, a transfer trio and five women she drafted. in the high school class of 1995. practically worked for free and in his first training sessions his players ran. And ran. And I ran a little more, and then maybe I did some stick drills.

The run paid off, as the second and third teams from Carolina qualified for the Final Four.

In 1997, UNC upset Virginia in overtime in the quarterfinals to advance to the semifinals. The 1998 team was ranked in the top three in the nation throughout the season, but was stopped by six-time national champion Maryland en route to their seventh title.

A few seasons later, in 2002, Carolina won its first ACC tournament championship and would once again reach the Final Four. After a few quiet years, Levy made a hire that would change the course of his program.

“In 2005, I hired Phil Barnes as chief assistant and it helped ground my staff,” Levy said. “Together, we restructured the practices and we evaluated everything in the program.

Since that time, Levy and Barnes have built an incredible program.

Carolina has appeared in nine of the last 12 NCAA Final Fours. The last five ACC tournaments also belong to the Tar Heels – without losing an ACC tournament game since 2015, a 15-game winning streak heading into the 2022 tournament in April, the longest in league history. ‘ACC.

Levy finally captured her first national title in 2013, followed by another title in 2016.

Levy’s players are equally dedicated to her program and she has also found inspiration from other Tar Heel coaches.

“Roy Williams,” Levy said, “has been a huge help to me, giving me advice and supporting me.”

Cannizzaro said Levy’s program benefits from the cohesive culture she has built.

“You can take any player that’s been on the program and flip him into another era or decade and he’ll fit right in with those players,” she said. “They would seem to be your new best friends.”

Because of this consistent culture, Levy was chosen to coach the United States Women’s National Team in November 2017 and was recently selected for the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2021.

“Jenny thrives in many areas and that led to her being named national team coach,” Cannizzaro said. “Jenny’s commitment to her own family and to the Carolina playing family is unquestioned. She has gone to places in our sport that few others have reached. She is incredibly respected by her peers and has shown that “She could lead Team USA on an international level and didn’t sacrifice any of her commitments to UNC.”

Levy continues to lead her program with a culture of excellence, a culture she has built over 27 years of consistency and commitment to the Carolina family.

Looking back on her journey, she has no regrets coming to Chapel Hill as the architect of one of the most successful programs in women’s lacrosse history.

“I remember my former teammates teasing me that I would never get the chance to hold this position,” Levy said. “But history has proven them wrong.”

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