When Morgan Goetz entered 7th grade at Cary Academy, her parents gave her a choice.
“We have four kids, so we told her, ‘We cannot be driving you everywhere, so you are going to have to pick a sport at school,’" her mother Cathy said.
Goetz did what her parents asked — partially. She chose to focus on two sports, track and field and field hockey.
Nine years later, Goetz is a major contributor for the North Carolina field hockey team and has started 63 games throughout her four-year career. She's been a part of two ACC Tournament Championships and played in three Final Fours and counting. She's also found success off the field.
But none of that was possible until she finally picked her sport.
She grew up in Cary, dreaming of attending UNC — no matter what sport she played.
“I was playing soccer and I was like ‘I’m going to play soccer at UNC.’ I was playing lacrosse and I was like ‘I’m going to play lacrosse at UNC,’" Goetz said.
Goetz attended Cary Academy from 7th grade until graduation in 2015. During this time, she was a two-sport athlete, starring in field hockey and track and field.
She lettered three times in track and field, receiving all-conference and all-state honors. She still holds the school records in the 800m, 4x800m and the distance medley relay.
Six years after Goetz chose to play both field hockey and track, she was faced with another tough decision — which sport would she pursue at the collegiate level?
Although she loved track and field, her heart was with field hockey.
“I do miss (track and field) a lot, but it was not a hard decision," Goetz said. “I knew I always wanted to be a part of a very team-like culture.”
However, she did not always believe that dream could become a reality.
“I actually didn’t have it on my list until (UNC head coach Karen) Shelton came up to me and talked to me at camp, and that is when it really became a reality,” Goetz said.
Along with her success on the field, Goetz has had significant off-the-field success at UNC.
For the past three seasons, Goetz has organized the North Carolina field hockey team’s annual Vs. Cancer game. Each year, the team raises money for cancer research. So far, this season the program has raised $2,519.
The cause means a lot to Goetz.
“My family personally has been impacted by cancer," Goetz said. "Both my sister and mom had cancer. It is something I hold near and dear to my heart. It is a lot of the reason why I want to do biomedical engineering, to look at these cancer mechanisms and try to figure them out.”
Goetz made the first step in achieving her goal this summer when she interned for the National Cancer Institute and researched at Columbia University.
In addition to her summer internship, Goetz will be inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, an honor society which celebrates academic excellence in the liberal arts and sciences. To qualify for membership, a UNC student must complete 75 hours of coursework in liberal arts and sciences with a minimum 3.85 GPA in that coursework.
“She makes it seem easy,” said her father, Andrew. “I mean she does, she makes it seem easy. Like it is not a big deal.”
Although she’s found her stride, it was a bumpy road getting there. During her first semester, Goetz had trouble adjusting.
“It just takes learning how you work and how you study and how you succeed,” Goetz said. “I think there has to be a base of wanting to succeed and wanting to do your best.”
This May, Goetz will graduate with a degree in biomedical engineering. She plans to pursue a Ph.D in the same field.
After that, she said she wants to change the world.
“I think there are a lot of ways we can alter the way we deliver drugs to people to make it not only more affordable, but more accessible to third-world countries and impoverished communities,” Goetz said.
With just one regular season game left for Goetz, the season — along with her college career — is coming to an end. Despite competing in three Final Fours at UNC, she still has not won a national championship.
As her time ends, Goetz cannot help but look back at where she came from. She said watching her sister play high school field hockey gives her perspective.
“That is the biggest shock to me, is going and seeing them play on grass and recognizing where I started from,” Goetz said. “I was not the top recruit. I was not the big name. I think I just put my head down and worked.”
Yet her status did not stop Goetz from becoming an integral part of the team and a star teammate.
“She is just a solid person for the team,” her teammate Leila Evans said. "She is always reliable whenever anybody needs help with anything, whether it is math homework or how to play on the field. She is just a solid person everyone can count on.”
Goetz has started in the Tar Heel backfield in every game this season and is a primary element in the team’s dominant defense. Throughout the season, the Tar Heels have only allowed 10 goals, while scoring 73 of their own.
In three years, Goetz achieved her dream and became an integral part of the team. In her senior year, the team currently holds a 16-0 record and secured the top seed in the ACC Tournament.
Although the outcome of the 2018 season is unknown, one thing is clear.
Goetz’s determination and growth will enable her to achieve her new goal after she hangs up her cleats — becoming a great medical innovator.
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