A year ago, a season that began with a loss to Michigan ended with an appearance in the NCAA championship game for North Carolina field hockey.
Whether or not that will repeat itself in 2017 remains to be seen, as the top-ranked Tar Heels opened their season with a 3-2 loss against the 11th-ranked Wolverines on Saturday before rebounding to defeat No. 17 Iowa, 3-0, on Sunday in the final game of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, which took place in Iowa City.
Here are three takeaways from UNC’s first two games of the season.
New goalkeeper impresses
Last season, Amanda Hendry took in everything going on around her from the sidelines. But now, the redshirt first-year is UNC’s starting goalkeeper, and she bears all of the responsibility that comes with that.
Head coach Karen Shelton said Hendry had been performing well in practice, and Shelton commended her for her play against the Wolverines and Hawkeyes.
Hendry earned the first shutout of her career in the Tar Heels’ victory against Iowa on Sunday. Shelton said her goalkeeper can’t be blamed for two of the scores by Michigan because they came off UNC sticks before finding the back of the net.
“It feels awesome,” Hendry said of shutting out Iowa. “I’m so excited for the rest of the season.”
Who’s going to account for the offensive production that Lauren Moyer brought in 2016?
That’s the primary question of UNC’s offense in 2017. A year ago, Moyer led UNC with 51 points (24 goals, 3 assists) as a senior, while no other Tar Heel scored more than nine goals.
If this weekend was any indication, Gab Major, UNC’s lone senior, can be a go-to player offensively for the Tar Heels, though it’ll probably take a team effort to replace the production of Moyer.
Major, who accumulated 28 points (nine goals, 10 assists) last season, was involved with each Tar Heel goal in both games. Against Michigan, she contributed a pair of assists, and she followed that effort up with a four-point performance (one goal, two assists) to help UNC pull away from Iowa in the second half.
“The rest of the scorers just do a great job of sharing the ball,” Major said of her personal success. “That’s just something we are focusing on this year.”
A learning experience to start the season
Before her team even took the field for the first time this season, Shelton remarked that 2017 could be a “somewhat of a rebuilding” for UNC.
To her point, the Tar Heels are replacing a bevy of experience from last year’s squad, but that didn’t prevent them from being tabbed as the No. 1 team in the land according to the Penn Monto/National Field Hockey Coaches Association poll.
Still, Shelton is expecting her team to encounter bumps along the road this season, and she was happy with how her players responded to moments of difficulty this weekend.
“That was a learning experience for us," she said of the loss to Michigan. "And then we were able to apply some of the lessons today, and hopefully (we can) carry it through as we go into next week.”
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