The No. 1 North Carolina field hockey team (1-0) started off its season strong on Friday, earning a top-10 victory by a margin of 4-2 at No. 8 Michigan (0-1).
Not even two minutes into the game, North Carolina allowed a goal off of a direct corner shot to Michigan’s Meg Dowthwaite.
“We probably started as poorly as we could, getting down a goal early in the game. They executed it well, credit to Michigan for doing that,” head coach Karen Shelton said.
The Tar Heels responded with a three-goal outburst from sophomore forward Erin Matson in a span of less than 10 minutes. Michigan tied the game up at two after UNC’s second goal, but Matson completed the hat trick a minute later. This set the tone for North Carolina, and they never looked back.
After the first five goals in the first half, the last goal was scored by senior forward Marissa Creatore in the fifty-eighth minute.
After the game, Shelton gave her thoughts on her team’s performance.
“What I liked was we didn’t lose our composure and we battled back,” she said. “It was a back and forth game. I think both teams learned a lot, and at the end of the day we played pretty good defense, we moved the ball, we executed on our penalty corner late and we put pressure on them.”
Who stood out?
The outstanding performance of the night was definitely by Matson. Her consistent scoring kept the Tar Heels in the game and alleviated pressure off the defense, who struggled a little bit by letting in two goals at the beginning of the game.
“She played amazing,” Shelton said.
Other notable performances came from Yentl Leemans, Madison Orobono and Romea Riccardo. Leemans was battling sickness earlier in the day which kept her out of practice in the morning, but she ended up playing the entire game and was a significant contributing factor to the Tar Heels win.
Shelton added some comments on the play of the other two. “Madison Orobono, she’s playing a critical position, she’s a freshman in the back field, I thought she played very well. And Romea Riccardo, who’s right back, she was a redshirt freshman last year. She played in her first game today, so it was really fun to see her play really well."
When was it decided?
Going into the fourth quarter, it was anybody’s game. North Carolina had a 3-2 lead, and the game had been going back and forth the entire time.
However, Creatore’s late-game goal sealed the victory for UNC.
“You want to win the fourth quarter,” Shelton said. “We had a one goal lead going into it and we were able to get a goal and secure the 4-2 win.”
Why does it matter?
This game was significant because it was a contest of two notorious teams. A season opener win against top-10 competition certainly boosts confidence, but the team also learned a lot about themselves.
“It was a great game really, a great opening game for both teams to learn a lot and get better and we found a way to win,” Shelton said.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels play again on Sunday, when they will match up against No. 10 Iowa at 2 p.m. This is the last game for UNC in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
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