North Carolina field hockey earns seventh-straight Final Four birth with win over Michigan
With a spot in the Final Four on the line, the North Carolina field hockey team held nothing back, and the Tar Heels reaped a reward for their efforts.
UNC defeated Michigan 1-0 in Henry Stadium this afternoon to clinch a spot in the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament.
North Carolina showed aggression from the onset, as an early shot from senior forward Casey Di Nardo deflected off the left post to start the game.
Soon after, Michigan found a chance to score. The Wolverines got the first penalty corner of the game after a foul on the Tar Heels, but junior goalkeeper Shannon Johnson was able to come up with the save, and the score remained 0-0.
From here, both sides buckled down for a physical battle. The Tar Heels continued with a fast paced attack but struggled to break the Wolverine defense.
That is, until a foul on Michigan gave North Carolina its first penalty corner of the game. Off of a pass from senior midfielder Nina Notman, freshman midfielder Ashley Hoffman was able to get a shot past Michigan's goalkeeper, giving the Tar Heels a 1-0 lead.
Following Major’s goal, UNC dominated possession, outshooting the Wolverines 10-2. The Tar Heels were able to maintain fast paced play as they looked for another opportunity to score.
But despite finding more opportunities, North Carolina could not break the Michigan defense but found success in keeping the Wolverines from finding another opportunity for a goal.
The second half remained a defensive contest.
UNC came into the half maintaining intense play and as time passed, UNC switched its strategy from extending its lead to maintaining possession in order to wind down the clock and shut out the Wolverines.
But Michigan caught on to North Carolina’s tactic.
With 1:13 remaining, Michigan found itself in an all-or-nothing situation. And in a final attempt to tie the score, the Wolverines pulled their keeper out of the game to bring on an 11th attacker.
But through mental and physical toughness, an outnumbered North Carolina squad kept Michigan’s 11 field players from getting a shot off. As the clock expired, the Wolverines remained scoreless, and the Tar Heels solidified their spot in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
“We talked about defense winning championships, and you’ve got to be strong defensively. And I thought everybody played with that championship mentality — with that intensity level that’s required in order to win.” — Coach Karen Shelton on her team’s defensive performance.
The Tar Heels achieved their first shutout win since September 25th, when they beat Boston College 5-0.
3 numbers that matter
2: Two Tar Heels, Major and Eva van’t Hoog, received green cards during the match.
4: North Carolina held Michigan to four shots for the game.
7: Sunday's victory sends UNC to its seventh consecutive Final Four appearance.
North Carolina will play Duke in the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament in Ann Arbor, Michigan on Friday.
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