UNC will break in the new stadium soon enough. On Saturday, the team will return home and play its first home game in Chapel Hill in over a year. Due to construction, last season it played all six of its regular season home games at Duke’s Williams Field at Jack Katz Stadium.
“It's actually been a little weird being able to play in Chapel Hill,” Goetz said. “I had a surreal moment. I looked up midway through practice and was like ‘Oh my gosh, I’m not in Durham. I don’t have to ride home after this.’"
In their first game of the season, the Tar Heels face Michigan in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge on Aug. 25. Head coach Karen Shelton's team has played the Wolverines in its regular season opener the previous two seasons and lost both times. That same day Wake Forest takes on Iowa in another ACC-Big Ten Challenge matchup. On Sunday, UNC battles the Hawkeyes for the completion of the competition.
Following the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, the Tar Heels play their next four games on the road. The field dedication will take place on the day of the next weekend game on Friday, Sept. 14th.
Throughout Shelton’s career in Chapel Hill, she has led North Carolina field hockey teams to six NCAA Championships and 20 ACC titles. As she heads into her 38th year at the helm, the coach is excited to get the season started.
“We are thrilled it’s a new beginning for our program, and we love the history of our program but how many have the chance to have a new beginning like this,” Shelton said. “We’re incredibly excited, and the goal is to stay undefeated on this field for as long as we possibly can. We are very proud of the way this reflects on the support of women student-athletes here at (North) Carolina, and we are going to do our best to play as hard as we can each and every game.”
In addition to hosting the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, the new stadium will also host the 2018 ACC Championship. The Tar Heels are the defending conference champions and were recently voted the preseason favorite to win the league again by six of the ACC's seven coaches.
In each of Goetz's three seasons, UNC has competed for final fours, but was unable to win a national championship. With a new season about to begin, the senior said expectations are high.
“We have made it a far way every time and for the past four years — my three years — we have made it to the final four,” said Goetz. “We need an extra little spark to finish, and I think maybe (a) new team, new facility could be that spark.”
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