UNC advances to NCAA semifinals
Though the official senior day for the No. 1 North Carolina field hockey team was two weeks ago, Sunday’s quarterfinal game against No. 8 Old Dominion was the last time the Tar Heel seniors would play on the turf at Henry Stadium.
It was only fitting that the 3-1 win advanced the team to the final four for the fourth time in the senior class’ tenure.
“It means everything to advance to the final four on our home field, that’s always a good feeling, just to end on a positive note,” senior defender Caitlin Van Sickle said.
Though the senior was recently selected as the ACC Defensive Player of the Year for the third consecutive season, it was her quick thinking on offense that swung the momentum in UNC’s favor.
With just under a minute to play in the first half, the Tar Heels drew their first penalty corner of the half.
After Katie Ardrey pushed the ball from the goal line to begin the play, forward Charlotte Craddock fired off a hard shot toward the goal.
But instead of rocketing to the back on the net, it was blocked by an Old Dominion defender.
That’s when Van Sickle corralled the loose ball and sent a high shot barrelling toward the cage to score with 23 seconds remaining in the half, giving UNC a 2-0 lead going into the break.
“I think that the second goal that we scored was a back-breaker in terms of momentum,” coach Karen Shelton said.
The goal wouldn’t be North Carolina’s last offensive strike as the team continued to pour on the pressure in the second half. In the first half, the Tar Heels only took seven shots, but after the break UNC piled on 17 more shots.
The Monarchs couldn’t keep up as they only managed to take one shot in the second half after a three-shot first-half effort.
The Tar Heels also increased their presence in Old Dominion’s circle, amassing 11 penalty corners in the second half after only drawing one in the first.
“I think we wore them down a little bit and I think our kids were a little jittery (in the first half),” Shelton said. “I think after getting the second goal, we could settle down and play a little bit more like we wanted to play in the second half.”
The second half also featured a rarity in field hockey — a penalty stroke. It was awarded to UNC after an ODU defender tried to protect the cage from behind the goalie. The stroke was called after she played the ball off her body at the goal line.
Marta Malmberg came off the bench for the Tar Heels to take the shot and nailed it past the ODU goalkeeper.
The goal sealed the win on the unofficial senior day and kept ODU at a comfortable distance even after it netted a goal in the 52nd minute.
“I thought it was really special to be able to come in as freshmen and make it to the final four every single year,” senior midfielder Kelsey Kolojejchick said. “To end on a good note at your last actual game at Henry, it couldn’t have been better for us.”
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