“We got caught opening goal with taking too many touches on the ball,” head coach Karen Shelton said. “We would like to get the ball and give the ball. We call it two-touch passing, and when we take too many touches on the ball you get closed down and bad things happen.”
It did not take long for the Tar Heels to tie the game. Senior Ashley Hoffman scored her first goal of the season, just over two minutes after O’Neill, to tie the game at one.
The contest stayed tied for most of the first half, and both teams seemed to find a strong tempo. With about six minutes left in the first half, junior forward Megan DuVernois was awarded a penalty stroke and scored to give the team a 2-1 lead heading into halftime.
In the first half alone, the Tar Heels had 14 shots but were only able to score twice.
Although UNC led heading into halftime, Shelton had a very specific message for her team.
“It was that we needed to work even harder because we were still in a really tight game. Nothing was guaranteed, so we needed to keep working harder and pass more,” DuVernois said. “We needed to be more simple and keep going. Because our lead didn’t mean anything. We were going into the second half, 0-0.”
Unlike the first half, in the second period the North Carolina offense started fast. It all began when Matson scored her first career goal as a Tar Heel.
“It was great, it was the perfect ball from Eva (van't Hoog), and it was a team effort and everything, but everyone was so excited and celebrating together,” Matson said. “It was a good first game, first goal.”
After her goal, which gave the team a 3-1 edge, UNC continued controlling the tempo of the game, allowing it to increase its lead.
Senior Malin Evert scored her first goal of the season, late in the second half off a penalty corner to make it 4-1.
With 13:06 left in the match, Hoffman scored her second goal of the day and closed out the victory for her team at 5-1.
The last time the Tar Heels beat Michigan in a regular season opener was Aug. 29, 2015. They have faced and lost to the Wolverines in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge the previous two years heading into 2018. Whether it was the aura of the new stadium, or the addition of six first-years, North Carolina received the spark it needed to succeed against its opponent.
“I think this game was a really good baseline and we can only go up from here,” DuVernois said. “We just have to keep building our confidence and our team chemistry. This year our team is super special because everyone really connects on the field and off the field, so it’s a very good start.”
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