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Wednesday February 1st

How will UNC field hockey follow up a perfect 2018 season?

<p>Senior Back Ashley Hoffman (13) of the UNC Field Hockey team defends the ball against Syracuse in a 5-1 win on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018, at Karen Shelton Stadium in Chapel Hill, NC.</p>
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Senior Back Ashley Hoffman (13) of the UNC Field Hockey team defends the ball against Syracuse in a 5-1 win on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018, at Karen Shelton Stadium in Chapel Hill, NC.

On Aug. 30, the 2019 UNC field hockey team will take the field and begin its season. When they do, fans will be wondering if this year will mirror the undefeated season the team had in 2018.

In a year where their resume was impeccable, the Tar Heels won 23 games,outscoring their opponents 103-16 and winning a second straight ACC Conference Championship. UNC capped off its season by winning the NCAA Championship, the seventh national title in program history, with a 2-0 victory against Maryland.

In 2019, the Tar Heels will look to build on the 2018 season and continue their dominance. Although the team lost six seniors at the end of 2018, including four starters, there are many key returners who will take the field for North Carolina this fall. Erin Matson, Catherine Hayden and Marissa Creatore all played a key role in the team's offensive dominance in 2018. 

Last season, Matson, then a first-year, started all 23 games for the Tar Heels and led the team in goals with 20 and assists at 19. She was named a first-team All-American, becoming the second UNC first-year in program history to earn that honor. Matson was also voted ACC Offensive Player of the Year and ACC Rookie of the Year.

Just like Matson, Hayden was a key piece of the Tar Heel offense in 2018. Throughout the season, she also started all 23 games and scored 16 goals with three assists. In addition, Hayden had the ability to come through for her team in clutch situations all season. Of her 16 goals, seven of them were game-winners. Hayden’s offensive ability paid off, as she was named to the All-ACC second team. 

Creatore remained a staple in the North Carolina offense in her junior season. She started every game in 2018, scoring nine goals and notching five assists. 

Just like Hayden, Creatore displayed the ability to show up for her team at the right time. In one weekend, she scored the game-tying goal and assisted on the game-winner against Boston College, then scored the game-winning goal against UConn, the defending national champions, to secure a 2-1 victory. That was enough for Creatore to be named the ACC and National Offensive Player of the Week.

In addition to these key returners, fans will notice some new faces on the field for the Tar Heels as well. This season, eight newcomers will debut for the Tar Heels — seven first-years and one junior transfer. The mixture of veterans and newcomers on the 2019 squad will be tested early. 

North Carolina will open its season against Michigan and Iowa, two elite teams, as they compete in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

With those two challenges under their belt, North Carolina will start conference play on Sept. 20 against Louisville, and will host two more ACC games at home this season, including a matchup against rival Duke on Oct. 4 at Karen Shelton Stadium. 

UNC will then compete in the ACC Tournament, which will be held in Newton, Mass., with hopes to secure their third conference championship in three years.    

With a tough season ahead, the veterans, who played a key role in the success of the 2018 team, and the eight newcomers will work together to continue the team's dominance in 2019 and attempt to become national champions once again.

@TorreNetkovick

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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