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UNC Lacrosse Star Jamie Ortega Makes NIL History

In joining with Epoch Lacrosse, the record-setting Tar Heel attacker is the first woman lacrosse player to sign a name, image, and likeness brand deal.

Football players may steal most of the headlines, but women athletes have not hesitated to take advantage of the NIL revolution in college athletics. Brands like Degree, Chipotle, and Bojangles have inked deals with female college athletes. And on Monday, the new normal in student-athlete monetization crashed the gates of women’s lacrosse.

Jamie Ortega, an attacker at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and the Tar Heels’ all-time leading scorer, will become the first woman lacrosse player to sign a name, image, and likeness brand deal.

Ortega’s partnership is with sports technology company Epoch Lacrosse, and will include promoting its products.

The news is an important development not just regarding economic equity, but empowerment and exposure for athletes outside of football or men’s basketball, the marquee “revenue sports” that earn the most media coverage and primetime TV real estate.

Photo by Epoch Lacrosse

A fifth-year senior from Centereach, New York, Ortega enters the 2022 campaign as a four-time All-American. In addition to being North Carolina’s all-time leading scorer, she’s fifth in ACC history with 353 career points. She’s scored two or more goals in 53 of 69 career games, and her 265 goals rank ninth in NCAA history.

“As a female athlete, it’s important for me to be able to share my love for the game with the next generation of girls to show that lacrosse is a sport for anyone who has a passion for it,” Ortega said in an official release. “I chose to partner with Epoch not only because they have helped me become a better shooter and performer, but because they’ve taken the time to truly invest in me and my brand. I look forward to continuing this partnership and to hopefully inspire the next generation of female athletes.”

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Ortega is and has been one of the NCAA’s best lacrosse players since her freshman campaign in 2018. She obliterated the freshman record for goals with 70 (the previous mark was 50). Now, the implementation of NIL regulations in the state of North Carolina allow her and other woman athletes to pursue opportunities to capitalize on the brands they’ve worked so hard to develop.

“It’s exciting because it’s new territory,” Ortega said in a July interview with Lax Sports Network. “A lot more people are reaching out, and that’s great.”

The Jamie Ortega Brand

  • 2021 ACC Attacker of the Year
  • 2020 Co-national Player of the Year
  • Became UNC’s all-time leading scorer in women’s lacrosse on March 1, 2021
  • 353 points (265 goals, 88 assists) entering 2022 season
  • New York state’s all-time leading high school lacrosse scorer with 588 points (402 goals, 186 assists)
  • Instagram Followers (@JamieOrtega): 6,457
  • Launching a series of lacross camps

Ortega specifically credits her head coach, Jenny Levy, for all her support and guidance in navigating the NIL landscape. “She’s been great, the departments been great,” Ortega said. “As much as it is exciting, it is overwhelming, and I don’t want to do anything to put me in jeopardy of becoming ineligible. As long as it isn’t interfering with the team, she’s all for it.”

A lacrosse athlete like Ortega securing a groundbreaking NIL partnership paves the way for more women athletes and lacrosse competitors to earn formal recognition and monetize their accomplishments. And as she looks ahead to a professional lacrosse career, it gives her a head start on becoming a business entity for the long haul.