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Saturday June 3rd

UNC field hockey soars past Hawkeyes, 2-1, to earn Final Four berth

<p>UNC sophomore forward Erin Matson (1) defends against Iowa senior defender Katie Birch (11). The Hawkeyes were tied with the Tar Heels 1-1 at halftime. The Tar Heels won 2-1 on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019 in Karen Shelton Stadium.&nbsp;</p>
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UNC sophomore forward Erin Matson (1) defends against Iowa senior defender Katie Birch (11). The Hawkeyes were tied with the Tar Heels 1-1 at halftime. The Tar Heels won 2-1 on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019 in Karen Shelton Stadium. 

The No. 1 North Carolina field hockey team (21-0, 6-0 ACC) knocked off Iowa in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday, earning head coach Karen Shelton her 11th straight Final Four berth and preserving a second straight undefeated season for the Tar Heels.

What happened?

The first period opened as a defensive chess match between the Tar Heels and the Hawkeyes, as the first decent look at goal came with just about 90 seconds remaining in the quarter.

North Carolina's Erin Matson found the ball near the right sideline and played it down the line to junior Eva Smolenaars. The midfielder sent in a low driving ball across the face of Iowa's goal, but neither of the two UNC players waiting for the pass could connect for a shot.

However, it didn't take long for the action to get underway in the second period. Maddy Murphy earned a penalty corner for the Hawkeyes in the first three minutes of the quarter and played the ball into the top of the circle to sophomore Lokke Stribos. She was able to set up her younger sister, Sofie Stribos, who deflected the ball into UNC's goal for the first-year's third score of the season.

North Carolina responded with a score of its own with less than six minutes remaining in the first half. After limping earlier in the period, Matson received a pass around the midfield line and maneuvered to the center of the field, drawing three Iowa defenders and earning the Tar Heels' first penalty corner.

Sophomore Abby Pitcairn played the ball to the top of the circle where first-year Madison Orobono settled the ball for senior Yentl Leemans. The ACC Defensive Player of the Year smacked the ball to Matson, the conference's Offensive Player of the Year, who found the back of the net to level the score, 1-1.

It took the Tar Heels just 26 seconds to open the fourth quarter with a goal to give them the lead, 2-1. Senior Marissa Creatore darted into a gap of open space to the left of Iowa's goal where she quickly received a pass and dished it across the face of the goal to senior Feline Guenther. Guenther crushed her shot into the back of the net to put UNC ahead, 2-1, a lead that North Carolina would hold for the rest of the game.

Who stood out?

Matson was dynamic for the Tar Heels. The All-ACC forward was able to weave her way through the Hawkeye defense effortlessly, allowing her constantly put pressure on Iowa and create space for Creatore and Guenther to convert North Carolina's second goal of the game.

When was it decided?

The second round matchup went down to the wire, with the score still tied at one entering the fourth quarter. Outside of a seven-minute window in the second quarter, the two defenses defenses had been dominating the match.

Guenther's goal to open the final period was crucial for a Tar Heel offense that struggled to get shots off throughout the afternoon and finished with only two shots on goal.

Why does it matter?

UNC's victory over Iowa was the 44th consecutive win for North Carolina and moved the Tar Heels to their eleventh straight NCAA Final Four.

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels will travel to Kentner Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C., to face either Boston College or Louisville in the semifinals of the 2019 NCAA Tournament on Friday.


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