The sun beat down on Karen Shelton Stadium and the Tar Heel defense shone in No. 1 North Carolina field hockey's 1-0 win over No. 16 Old Dominion Sunday.
The only goal in the contest was scored by senior Megan DuVernois, securing the win for UNC. It was the team’s lowest scoring total in over a year — the last time UNC scored just one goal in a contest was against Princeton in 2018.
In a win where North Carolina’s offense started off slow, the team's gritty defensive performance stood out – led by senior goalkeeper Alex Halpin.
For the past two games, the Tar Heels have been without starting junior goalkeeper Amanda Hendry, who suffered a concussion against Liberty last Sunday. In her place, Halpin, who hadn't started a game since 2016, took over.
“We knew we had two good goalkeepers, so when Amanda went down, I was not worried at all about that," head coach Karen Shelton said.
Against the Monarchs, Halpin delivered, with five saves in the first half alone.
Old Dominion threatened in the 28th minute when it was awarded a penalty stroke right before the half. ODU’s Rebecca Birch stepped into the circle and took her shot, which Halpin snagged.
"I kept behind the ball and tracked the ball," Halpin said. "Tried to read what the stick angle is, but trying not to get in my own head and explode off the line."
North Carolina, meanwhile, couldn't find a rhythm. In the first half, UNC had four shots, just two on goal. It was the second time in two games that the Tar Heels didn't score before the break.
When the Tar Heels returned, their offense began to push back against the Monarchs. After a few penalty corners, North Carolina capitalized on a chance that would end up deciding the game.
In the 41st minute, DuVernois deflected the ball into the back of the net off a pass from the right side by sophomore Hannah Griggs, and gave her team the lead, 1-0.
Up by one in the fourth quarter, the UNC defense stood its ground. In the last six minutes, ODU was awarded two penalty corners and took four shots; three of which were blocked, and one was saved by Halpin.
The senior goalkeeper had six saves at the end of the game, two away from her career high, to earn her second win of the season.
The shutout was North Carolina’s sixth of the year, while the team has allowed just 15 goals through 16 games.
“Our corner defense was really, really good,” DuVernois said. “(Halpin) was really composed on the (penalty) stroke, which helped a lot, I think. She had a big presence in the circle, which was very helpful because it gave a lot of confidence to all of our defenders and mids."
Through two games this weekend, both wins, Halpin collected nine saves. She also secured the second solo shutout of her career — the first coming against the Monarchs in 2016.
It's all coming full circle for Halpin, the veteran who accepted her role behind Hendry and is now stepping up in a big way in her absence.
“It felt amazing, I really enjoyed the opportunity,” Halpin said. "I totally feel for Amanda and I want her to be healthy and keep it up. But I was glad I was able to play well this weekend, get the win and join the D-unit to a shutout today.”
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