Senior Lauren Moyer said early on in the season, the team had an expectation of winning but didn’t really put in the work necessary to actually win games.
“In the past, we’ve just kind of let our name carry us, and just because we’re Carolina, we’re supposed to win games,” Moyer said.
Senior Julia Young agreed.
“The games we’ve gone in just kind of playing, and not working hard, just expecting it, are the games that we’ve lost,” Young said.
But something switched for North Carolina after that first game against Michigan and a loss to Boston College. The Tar Heels saw themselves in a different light — as underdogs.
“Being bumped down to No. 5 last week really helped us play well against Syracuse and Duke,” Young said. “I think we just kind of came with that mentality this week.”
Getting into that mindset is easier when you’re playing from behind, as UNC has done the past three games. Shelton said that’s something she wants to change.
“I don’t want to be known as a second-half team,” Shelton said.
“We want to play better in the first half and then still play well in the second half. But I kind of don’t like the going down by a goal part.”
But with second-half performances like what the Tar Heels showed against Michigan, it’s hard to complain too much. UNC displayed its usual balance on offense, with five different goal-scorers.
Sophomore Ashley Hoffman led the way with a goal — a flick shot off a penalty corner for her first of the season — and two assists. Moyer added another goal, her team-leading ninth of the season, and an assist of her own, playing a ball into the circle off open play. Junior Gab Major poked it through the Michigan keeper’s legs to take a 3-1 lead.
Moyer and Hoffman’s goals came after a Wolverine yellow card. Playing a player up, the two goals in three minutes proved to be North Carolina’s final blow in the match.
The Tar Heels were able to use their stick skills on offense to draw fouls on Michigan throughout the game, leading to free hits and 10 penalty corners for the Tar Heels.
UNC’s ability to capitalize on penalty corners was another form of improvement.
Four of North Carolina’s goals came from penalty corners, while UNC couldn’t convert any of its five penalty corners into goals in their game against Michigan in August.
These 37 days have shown the Tar Heels are among the best teams in the nation. But Shelton knows her team’s work is not even close to being over.
“We’re trying to take it one game at a time, one practice at a time, to make the improvements we need to make to reach our potential,” Shelton said.
“We’re not there yet, but I certainly think the second half was a step for us.”