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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC field hockey upsets No. 1 Syracuse in double overtime

The No. 5 North Carolina field hockey team defeated No. 1 Syracuse on Friday by a final score of 3-2. The Tar Heels pulled off the upset over the Orange on a game winner in the second overtime period from Malin Evert.

What happened?

Syracuse scored first on a goal from Serra Degnan, her second of the season. North Carolina quickly countered, though, when Lauren Moyer found the back of the cage right before the end of the first half. For much of the game, that was the theme — Syracuse scoring and North Carolina finding ways to respond. 

In the second half, North Carolina had three penalty corners within the first few minutes of play. The Tar Heels weren’t able to capitalize on any of those chances, but they set the tone for how North Carolina would attack and play aggressively in the second half.

Again, though, the Tar Heels’ offensive control and aggression didn’t immediately translate to the scoreboard. Syracuse’s Jennifer Bleakney got the first goal of the second half. Lauren Moyer countered with her second goal, a beauty that just snuck by the goalie from a tough angle.

UNC had their foot on the gas pedal all through the second half, but Syracuse goalie Regan Spencer came up with one big save after another to keep the score tied at two.

The game would head into a first overtime period, when it was North Carolina goalie Alex Halpin’s turn to step up. Halpin made two huge saves on the Orange's Liz Sack to keep the game tied.

In the second overtime period, with everyone’s legs growing heavier and heavier, Evert finally ended it. Her golden goal sent the North Carolina fans and players into a frenzy.

Who stood out?

North Carolina goalie Alex Halpin got her first start and played the entire game for the first time this season.

The usual modus operandi for Coach Karen Shelton is letting goalie Shannon Johnson and Halpin split time in the cage. Johnson has been racking up the wins — she had a 6-0 win-loss record coming into the weekend — while Halpin has been credited with UNC’s only two losses.

But Halpin had almost twice as many saves (11) as Johnson (6) coming into the weekend. Shelton elected to go with Halpin all game against Syracuse, and the sophomore transfer from Massachusetts played admirably.

Halpin made a huge save in the overtime period, stopping a shot from Liz Sack on a two-on-one chance for the Orange. It was only her second of the night, but it was the biggest moment of the game up to that point.

When was it decided?

Seventy minutes wasn’t enough time to decide the winner of this match-up. North Carolina seemed to have the ball on the attacking end with no shortage of good chances, but it couldn’t find that elusive game-winning goal late in the second half.

In the second overtime period, which features seven-on-seven play, Evert had the golden goal to win it for the Tar Heels.

Why does it matter?

This was the first time these two teams had faced off since the national championship last season. On Nov. 22 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, it was the Orange that had the upper hand over UNC — winning 4-2 and claiming Syracuse's first NCAA field hockey title.

The Tar Heels had redemption on their mind coming into the night, and they got it when Evert sent the game winner home. North Carolina can use this win, in maybe the biggest game on the schedule, as a jumping off point for the rest of its tough conference slate.

Who’s next?

The Tar Heels play No. 2 Duke at 1 p.m. on Sunday. 

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