The North Carolina defense shined as the No. 7 Tar Heels (8-2, 2-1 ACC) held off the No. 6 Syracuse Orange (8-2, 1-2 ACC) in a tight overtime battle.
The game started off slow, with both teams combining for only 5 totally shots in the first half. UNC finally got its first goal at the end of the half from senior forward Gab Major off an assist from junior Ashley Hoffman.
In the second half, the UNC defense stepped up big, working together to fend off a relentless Syracuse attack. It was apparent that every Tar Heel on the field was working to put a stop to the Orange, according to head coach Karen Shelton.
"It was a great team effort," Shelton said. "We defend from the front so that the forwards can work and press against Syracuse's big backs, which was important for us today."
After playing defensively for most of the half, junior midfield Eva van't Hoog stepped up for the Tar Heels with a goal in the 52nd minute off a pass from sophomore midfielder Feline Guenther.
Less than 2 minutes after van't Hoog's go-ahead goal, Syracuse's Elaine Carey scored off a long outlet pass by Roos Weers. This left the Orange down 2-1 with little time left, pressing to tie the game up.
After many failed chances from both teams in the remaining minutes, Syracuse's Erin Gillingham scored off an extra-time penalty, 1 of 3 penalties awarded to the Orange at the end of the 70th minute with no time on the clock. The goal sent the game to extra time.
But overtime didn't last long, as van't Hoog scored on the Tar Heel's first chance with an impressive inside move in front of the goal.
Who stood out?
Eva van’t Hoog came in big for the Tar Heel offense with a go-ahead goal late in the second half, and a game-winning score in the opening minutes of overtime.
The UNC defense also played impressively, showing their force as a unit as they put a halt to a fiery Syracuse offense. However, a few players definitely stood out for this Tar Heel defense.
“Ashley Hoffman is the anchor of our defense,” said Shelton. “And I thought Amanda Hendry in goal had an amazing game today.”
When was it decided?
This defensive battle came down to the wire, with the game being decided at van’t Hoog’s overtime goal amidst a sea of orange.
Why does it matter?
This win marks the Tar Heels’ fifth win in a row, giving them a good deal of momentum heading into their next match-up. This also gives UNC a winning record in conference play.
In addition, this victory is UNC’s fifth against a top-20 team. And with Syracuse ranked just one spot above the Tar Heels, this win could move them up in the coaches poll.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will stay on the road as they face Albany next Sunday at 1 p.m.
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