DURHAM — North Carolina was locked-in offensively on Tuesday night, as the No. 7 Tar Heels (7-2, 1-1 ACC) dominated Davidson, 10-0, behind a strong effort from a deep group of substitutions.
Coming in on a three-game win streak, the Tar Heels looked to extend that number against Davidson (0-6). The offense dominated the possession time early in the game, keeping the ball on the Wildcats' half of the field. After a few close opportunities, Catherine Hayden scored 10 minutes into the game to give the Tar Heels an early 1-0 lead.
The offense wasn’t done, though. Ashley Hoffman was able to score her team-leading sixth goal of the season less than a minute later off of a penalty corner.
Hayden’s name was called one more time before the half, as the the mid-fielder scored on a rebound after a blocked shot by goal keeper Sara Zeszotarski with 15 minutes left in the half.
Hayden’s second goal gave the Tar Heels a commanding 3-0 lead going into the half. UNC’s offensive dominance in the first half ramped up even more in the second, as Marissa Creatore scored on a tip during a penalty corner by Hoffman just three minutes in.
Just a possession later, the Tar Heels scored again on a goal by Malin Evert in the top of the cage. The Tar Heels didn’t stop there, as the team reeled off a string of seven goals in the half to inflate their lead.
UNC was able to spread the ball around well, as seven different Tar Heels scored a goal and four were able to register an assist.
The defensive unit was also impressive for the Tar Heels as the team was able to stop the Wildcats from registering a single shot all night. UNC head coach Karen Shelton was impressed with her team's ball movement.
“We are a passing team," Shelton said. "When we pass the ball, we’re pretty good. When we go individual, and we carry the ball and we do a lot of individual dribbling trying to go down the middle, that's when we get in trouble. Tonight’s game was important for us, and I think it shows the team that when we do pass the ball, we’re going to be a better group.”
Who stood out?
Almost every player had a role in the Tar Heel’s dominant performance, but it was a key substitute and a consistent leader that proved to be the main factors in the dominant performance.
Hayden had a hand in the team’s offensive outburst in the first half, with two goals, and completed the hat trick with a late goal in the second half as well. The sophomore helped spark a strong group of substitutes that finished the night with six goals as a group. Hayden credited her team for their efforts in her strong performance.
“It was definitely up to my team," Hayden said. "They just gave me balls and I was in the right spot. My three were not all on corners, and I think a lot of others weren’t too, so it’s really good to see our team getting better in that aspect of the game.”
Ashley Hoffman, who was recently named the ACC Defensive Player of the Week, also made her mark in the win with two goals and an assist, to bring her goal total to a team-leading seven on the season.
When was it decided?
North Carolina’s defense kept Davidson out of the entire game by dominating the possession, and the team’s three first half goals seemed to put the game out of reach for the Wildcats, who couldn’t set up a scoring play all game long.
Why does it matter?
After two wins over ranked opponents in their previous two matchups, the Tar Heels continued their momentum and didn’t let up against a winless Davidson team.
The victory not only increased North Carolina’s win streak to four games but also helped prepare the team for a big matchup against ACC opponent and No. 6 Syracuse. Shelton has seen improvements from her team with every game, and believes her team is ready for the tough challenges ahead.
“I think we are getting better," Shelton said. "That’s exciting. And I think this group has been a joy to work with. They are focused, motivated, and trying to get better. It’s all of us working towards the same thing, so it is fun to see them making steps.”
Where do they play next?
The Tar Heels will travel to No. 6 Syracuse on Saturday at 2 p.m.
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