DURHAM — Ashley Hoffman continues to be that special player for North Carolina field hockey.
She was special when she was named to the 2017 U.S. National Team this past spring. She was special in wins against No. 8 Boston College and No. 13 James Madison last weekend, which earned her ACC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
She was also special on Tuesday night against Davidson. The junior center back scored two goals in North Carolina's 10-0 win at Jack Katz Stadium. Through nine games, she leads the team with seven goals.
What exactly makes Hoffman so special for the No. 7 Tar Heels? It's her versatility as a player and a teammate.
“She’s incredible,” head coach Karen Shelton said. “Ashley does it all for us.”
What does she do? Shelton elaborated even further on her gifted player:
“She takes the penalty strokes. She is on corner defense, corner offense. And she adds strength and maturity in the backfield. I think she’s terrific.”
Hoffman has played multiple positions since arriving at UNC. She played as a side back in her first year, moved to midfield in her sophomore season and has switched to center back for her junior campaign. Hoffman cited her time playing these different roles, as well as playing defense on the national team, as reasons for her diverse abilities on the field.
“I think having experience at those different positions helped me tremendously as a player,” Hoffman said. “Getting these different skill sets that are unique to each position and then adapting them has really helped me.”
Shelton believes that Hoffman’s talent as a two-way player has made her standout in comparison to the rest of the competition. And she sees an opportunity for Hoffman to get even better.
“She’s one of the best players, if not the best player, in the country because she does play both sides of the ball,” Shelton said. “She still has room to grow and develop, so it's exciting.”
While Hoffman has been receiving some prestigious accolades and some great praise from her head coach, she's concentrating on working with her teammates to gradually improve as a unit.
“Just getting better each day as a team — that’s always the goal,” Hoffman said. “I'm more focused on the team, progressing as a team and going to the tournaments with those goals in mind.”
The Tar Heels’ next game will be against their third ranked opponent in four games as they travel to New York to play No. 6 Syracuse on Saturday. It's another hurdle along their journey to return to the national championship stage they lost on just a season ago.
And Hoffman — their leading scorer, their two-way star and Shelton's special player — will lead the way.
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