Shortly before halftime in UNC’s final home game of the season Sunday, junior Nina Notman intercepted a pass near midfield and sent a long pass toward fellow junior Emma Bozek, who was streaking into the shooting circle.
The ball skidded across the Henry Field turf, slid between the outstretched sticks of two University of Pacific defenders and hit Bozek in stride. Bozek slapped it past the goalkeeper for her third goal of the game and first career hat trick.
Everything about the sequence was perfect: the steal, the pass, the shot. It was precise, unselfish field hockey and it was what the No. 1 Tar Heels displayed for much of their dominant 7-0 win on Senior Day.
“Particularly in the first half, I thought we moved the ball around really well, shared it unselfishly, and had quick results,” Coach Karen Shelton said.
In Saturday’s 3-1 victory against No. 11 Wake Forest, the Tar Heels failed to score until the second half. But two goals in a 33-second span put UNC in control.
So on Sunday against Pacific, the Tar Heels wasted no time initiating a scoring outburst. Bozek gave UNC the lead in just the second minute of play, hardly after the seniors’ pregame ceremony had finished.
“In (Saturday’s) game, we took a little bit longer to score,” Bozek said. “(Sunday) we emphasized getting a quick start and trying to put a few goals on the board early. Coach was really excited that we did that.”
Senior Loren Shealy, who scored and assisted once as well, thought the crisp passing — and clustered scoring that resulted from it — gave UNC an early mental advantage.
“We feed off of one another after a goal,” Shealy said.
“We are always looking to get a quick second goal after scoring the first. It’s a momentum shifter, and our team really feeds off of each other’s momentum and intensity. That’s something that we’ve focused on the last couple weeks.”
With a 5-0 lead at halftime, Shelton urged her team to ignore the scoreboard in the second half and focus on adhering to the team’s core values: spreading the field, creating open passing lanes and sharing the ball.
But Shelton wasn’t pleased with the second-half execution.
“We didn’t connect,” Shelton said.
“When you have a big lead, you tend to want to do more. You want to dribble instead of pass.”
Shelton was quick to take note of the pattern that emerged. Unselfishness in the first half created easy scoring chances. Less sharing in the second half led to fewer goals.
“Our game is based on possession passing, and so when we get too individual, bad things happen,” Shelton said.
“We like to move the ball around the other team instead of going through them.”