For its 29th consecutive victory and first ACC win of the season, the No. 1 North Carolina field hockey team defeated No. 7 Louisville 4-1 on Friday. The win tied a program record for consecutive wins.
“It is amazing to be a part of this program, literally a dream come true,” sophomore Erin Matson said. “We don’t really think about the 29-0, we take it one game at a time which is why I think we have gotten this far.”
The Tar Heels (6-0, 1-0 ACC) have dominated both offensively and defensively this season, outscoring their opponents 18-1 in their last three games. With Friday's win, they gave Louisville its first loss of the season.
“I was very proud of this team,” head coach Karen Shelton said. “We expected a tough battle, and we got one. I feel as if the scoreboard doesn’t tell the whole story of the game.”
The Tar Heels went up 1-0 after sophomore Riley Fulmer came off the bench to score in the first quarter. They were able to maintain the lead for the rest of the game, as Matson added two more goals for North Carolina before the half.
“I build a lot off of my teammates energy,” Matson said. “When I’m feeling good and getting connections with everybody, then I feel like I can just go out there and play and not really second guess myself.”
Matson has scored in six of North Carolina’s seven games this season. She won the NFHCA National Offensive Player of the Week award and the ACC Offensive Player of the Week award in the same week earlier this season. A huge contributor to the offense's success, Matson also leads North Carolina in goals this year.
At halftime, both the Cardinals and the Tar Heels had seven shots and four penalty corners. By the end of the game, Louisville had outshot North Carolina, 16-12, but UNC was able to capitalize on its chances. Junior Eva Smolenaars was able to score one more for UNC before the Cardinals put their first score on the board in the final three minutes of the game.
“It feels good to win another game in Karen Shelton Stadium and also get the first ACC one out of the way,” Matson said.
On the opposite end of the field, the Tar Heels have only allowed seven goals this season after Friday's win. With a completely new defensive line this year, North Carolina has not been phased.
“We rely on our defense a lot, this year is one where we are building a lot on our defense and learning a lot each game,” Matson said.
Junior goalkeeper Amanda Hendry and senior goalkeeper Alex Halpin have already combined for two shutouts this season, and were minutes away from a third today.
“My defense is helping me out a bunch. They’re doing a great job on the corners, I’m just doing what I should be doing with the saves,” Hendry said. “Honestly, I’m not getting that much action, which is awesome.”
Shelton continued to emphasize that despite the program's historic winning streak, UNC is still giving each opponent the respect they deserve and not getting too far ahead.
“There were some amazing moments in that game, some that we scored on, some that we didn’t score on,” Shelton said. “I feel good about our group — as long as we stay humble and hardworking, we keep getting better. We take it game by game. We always want to win the next game, so if we can keep that going I’ll be thrilled.”
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