The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Seniors' Last Title Run Begins in Michigan

UNC field hockey travels to Ann Arbor this weekend in hopes of reaching its 13th final four in 16 seasons.

But since North Carolina's 1997 title, the program has failed to again reach that pinnacle, falling in the second round in 1998 and 1999 and losing in the championship game last season.

Now as seniors, Hayes and Lingo have a chance to bookend their careers with another NCAA championship run.

Fourth-ranked UNC begins its pursuit of the program's fifth title Saturday on the road in Ann Arbor, Mich. against Michigan.

The Tar Heels (14-6) faced several bumps along their regular season ride, dropping three games to Wake Forest and falling in three overtime contests.

But that was then. The tournament is now.

"We are still concerned about our own play," said UNC coach Karen Shelton. "But I firmly believe that our best hockey is ahead of us."

UNC is 4-0 all time against Michigan.

The Tar Heels most recently faced the Wolverines on Sept. 8 in the Temple Invitational, prevailing 2-1 behind goals from Abby Martin and Charlotte Plugge.

Should UNC get past the Wolverines, a rematch against Kent State, who defeated UNC 5-4 in overtime Sept. 22 in Chapel Hill, could be in the works.

Martin, who began her career in 1998, sensed a fire in her senior classmates this week in practice.

"It's the best time of the year for us," Martin said. "The seniors, we've been here before and know what it takes to be successful."

Since their September win against the Wolverines, Martin has moved from the midfield to sweeper, a position she played most of her junior season.

UNC also has shifted their defensive scheme from a four-back to a three-back system.

To defeat the Wolverines, the Tar Heels' four forwards must be aggressive and draw penalty corners, which are central to UNC's scoring abilities.

"Our press on the (offensive) attack will be important," Martin said. "The execution of the offense is key, as well as moving the forwards back help out on the defense."

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the NCAA wanted to cut down on the length of travel.

The result is a more geographical distribution of the host sites, leaving UNC to play on the road to a lesser ranked opponent like Michigan.

Nonetheless, Shelton is confident the team can prevail on the road and advance to the its 13th final four in 16 seasons.

"I think the majority of the team likes playing on the road," Martin said. "Road trips bring us all together. We eat meals together and can better prepare. At home, we are more scattered."

The Sports Editor can be reached at

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.