That’s exactly what North Carolina field hockey coach Karen Shelton did Friday night as she and her top-ranked Tar Heels traveled to Durham and grinded out a 1-0 victory against No. 8 Duke.
The win was the first of two on the weekend, as UNC (13-2, 3-2 ACC) defeated Liberty 4-0 on Sunday.
After falling to the Blue Devils 3-2 in a shootout last season, the Tar Heels added motivation to an already historic rivalry.
“We try to always make the most important game the next one, but at our pregame practice (Thursday) you could tell that there was a buzz in the air,” senior Samantha Travers said. “Our coach was the one who provided speakers for the locker room. That goes to show that she knew we needed to get pumped and knew we would get pumped.”
Travers and her teammates had plenty to be pumped about in the 26th minute when sophomore Julia Young sent Travers a corner pass at the top left of the circle.
Travers ripped a shot that beat Duke standout goalkeeper Lauren Blazing for the game’s only goal.
It was a fitting time for the team captain to put home her first goal of the season.
Senior All-American and leading goal scorer Charlotte Craddock did not play for the third straight game because of a lingering back injury.
With who Travers calls “the best player she’s ever seen” on the bench, it would take a strong performance from more than just the senior back. Sophomore goalkeeper Shannon Johnson didn’t disappoint.
“She meant a lot to our success today,” Shelton said of Johnson, who had seven saves on a dozen Blue Devil shots. “She played well under pressure tonight. That’s what you want in a goalie. Someone who is consistent, works hard, looks to improve and performs well under pressure.”
Johnson’s standout performance in her first career start against the Blue Devils (11-4, 2-3 ACC) meant more to her than just a top-10 ACC win on the road against the school’s biggest rival. That’s because Duke’s All-ACC midfielder is Johnson’s older sister, Aileen. It marked the first time in both sisters’ careers, they would play in the same game, but for different teams.
“We’ve always been on the same teams so it’s definitely a weird feeling having her come against me,” Shannon Johnson said.
Although Johnson didn’t play in last year’s game, she was hesitant when asked whether there would be any family trash-talking or bragging rights.
“I mean, last year they beat us and now we beat them,” Johnson said.
“So I guess we’re pretty even.”