Most kids grow up dreaming of the chance to play at and be a part of a program at a school like North Carolina. One of lacrosse's traditional blue bloods, the Tar Heels perennially rank among the top teams in the country and have five national championships to their credit.
Things were a little bit different for Ryan Levy, though. The Team 91 Carolina 2020 and East Chapel Hill attackman has grown up a stone's throw from campus, and his family ties to UNC run deep. His mother, Jenny, is the head coach of the powerhouse women's program, piloting the Heels to a pair of national championships in her 20-season reign. His father, Dan, played attack for the men's team and won a national championship in 1991.
As a result, Levy has grown up in the shadows of UNC's campus, always going along to games and getting to know the intricacies of both the men's and women's program. When it came time for him to be recruited, though, he had to take a different look at it and didn't want to simply assume that he'd be a Tar Heel. When push came to shove, though, there was really only one option for him, and it led to him committing to Carolina. The talented attackman, ranked No. 91 in Inside Lacrosse's Class of 2020 rankings, will spend a post-graduate year away from home before coming back home as part of the Heels' 2021 class.
"In the end, I just felt like Carolina was the best fit for me," Levy said. "I love the coaching staff. I know some of the kids going there and it's a great place to be. It was the right decision for me to make, and I'm really excited about it."
There were times where Levy considered going to school away from home, particularly after growing up so close to UNC, and he went through the recruiting process like anyone else. Ultimately, though, he found the right fit, and it happened to be close to home.
"I went through the full recruiting process. I looked at schools away from home, and I went through some phases where I thought that I'd maybe stay home and then other phases where I thought I'd go away," Levy said. "I just meshed with the Carolina program and it just felt right. The program has a great history of winning, and Coach Breschi brought the championship back in 2016. I know a ton of people that play or that have played, and they've all loved their experience. They're always coming back for the alumni game. School-wise, it's a good academic school."
Thanks to Levy's background, he's always had an advanced lacrosse IQ and feel for the game, but it wasn't until he changed physically that his game really skyrocketed. A big-bodied attackman with a good stick, excellent body control and poise while running the offense, Levy emerged as a bonafide ACC prospect, and his game continued to improve. This fall, he was downright unstoppable, getting to the rack with ease, and he was dominant for both Team 91 Carolina and as a fill-in at the Fall Classic and NLF Fall Invitational for Team 91 Long Island.
Being exposed to an ACC program so early on showed him what it took to not only be an elite player, but all of the little things that go into making a championship team. It had a lasting effect on him, and he also knows that the work is just beginning.
"It showed me how hard you have to work at this level," Levy said. "It doesn't just happen. When you're going into a really big program with a big name and a storied tradition, you really have to embrace the grind and be ready to get after it."
Levy, who plans on studying business or economics at Chapel Hill, is a throwback three-sport athlete who's always doing something different. This fall, he was named to the all-state soccer team for his work in the East Chapel Hill net, guiding the Wildcats to the state semifinals. Now, he's jumping right into basketball season before his best sport comes back around. It's partly because of that that there's plenty of optimism with regard to his potential. If he's this good right now, how good can he be when he's exclusively focusing on lacrosse at UNC?
It won't be a surprise to those around him if and when Levy emerges as a big-time player as a Tar Heel, either.
"Ever since I started with Team 91 Carolina, I've been impressed with Ryan's work ethic and maturity," Team 91 Carolina director Nick Holota said. "He's got the full toolbox of skills and great bloodlines, but he's always putting in the time to get better. He's confident in his abilities, but he does a wonderful job of involving his teammates and elevating their play. That's the hallmark of a great player, and I'm confident that he'll leave his mark at UNC."
If his family history is any indicator, it would be foolish to count against it.