DURHAM — “Believe it. Do it. Earn it.”
That's the motto for the 2019 North Carolina field hockey team, which is looking to prove itself once again after last season’s success. The 2018 team had a perfect 23-0 overall record and was 6-0 in conference play at the end of the season, securing its seventh national championship after defeating Maryland 2-0 in the NCAA final.
But now, the focus is on the future.
For this season, the goal is to continue that momentum and drive for another national title despite losing six seniors and reorganizing with eight new players — seven first-year players and one transfer.
“I think a lot of people are not necessarily doubting us, but they don’t think we’ll be as good because of the talent we lost," senior midfielder Catherine Hayden said. "But I’m so confident in this team, in this group. I think we 100 percent can win another national championship.”
In the exhibition, Hayden and sophomore forward Erin Matson both had a standout game with two goals each, one of Matson's coming from the shoot-out at the end of the game.
Hayden, who was tied for second most goals (16) last season and was named to the All-ACC second team, started the scoring for the Tar Heels in the first quarter and scored again in the second. Matson —who was named ACC Offensive Player of the Year and ACC Rookie of the Year and led the team with 20 goals and 19 assists in 2018 — scored in the second quarter, and again in the shootout.
The veterans showed their experience throughout the exhibition game and are expected to continue with their offensive skill for the duration of the season. In 2018, UNC displayed balance between its offense and defense by scoring 103 goals, while also limiting opponents to just 16 throughout the season.
“I want to really connect with my team through the midfield and defense, so all throughout the lines,” Matson said about her personal goals for the season. “I think we need to bring out the whole team culture we have off the field onto the field and making sure everyone has a voice.”
Head coach Karen Shelton was impressed with the team’s performance on both ends at the exhibition and said the key going forward will be to keep building momentum. She noted that having an exhibition game is great practice and an opportunity to play around with different tactics — for example, the team experimented with different lineups and pulled the goalkeeper to start the second half.
Despite her team being named No. 1 overall in the preseason rankings, Shelton said her focus is on the future, concentrating on the start of the regular season with a match against Michigan on Friday, Aug. 30.
“We’re trying to think about tomorrow and the next day or the next play,” Shelton said. “We’re not looking at any of the other things – what happened last year or the number one ranking – because at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter.”
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.