Senior Feline Guenther came into the North Carolina field hockey team's matchup with No. 13 Saint Joseph's on Sunday not having scored a goal this season. She finished the 3-2 win for the Tar Heels with two — one of which was the game-winner in double overtime to cap off the team's second straight undefeated regular season.
Guenther's first goal came in the 31st minute off of a rebound after a save to put North Carolina up 2-0. The Hawks answered back with a pair of goals of their own before the end of regulation.
Then, with the score tied at two in the second overtime, senior forward Marissa Creatore assisted Guenther for the game-winning goal in the first 38 seconds of the period.
“Everyone was super tired, and everyone used their last resources of energy in the last couple minutes," Guenther said. "When I saw Marissa running down the line I just tried to get in front of the girl and get a touch on the ball and really put my last bit of energy into it. It worked out, and I was very happy about it."
Not only was Sunday's game Guenther's best performance of the year, but it came at a time when the Tar Heels needed some senior leadership the most. The Tar Heels were missing sophomore Erin Matson, the nation's leading scorer, who was in India competing with the U.S. national team.
This type of chemistry has been building between the seniors since the day they arrived on campus. Creatore said they've all embraced each other and know their roles to make sure the team is successful.
“We have eight seniors, and five of them are fifth-year seniors," Creatore said. "Coming off of last year, we built our leadership as our fourth year ended and we’ve really come together and run the team as a group of eight. We all know our roles really well, and we all play different roles in the team."
Guenther's late-game heroics were special for her because it was in front of her parents, who ventured overseas to watch their daughter play on Senior Day.
"Both my mom and my dad from Germany are here," Guenther said. "It's great support, so that's probably the extra push that I had."
Along with the support from her parents, Guenther also felt the love from her teammates and head coach Karen Shelton after her clutch performance.
“(Coach) is super proud of me because I usually never score,” Guenther said. “I always put so much effort in supporting the team, but I never get a score...I think she saw me enjoying that moment. I really enjoyed every minute of this game, to be honest.”
Shelton echoed that sentiment after the game, praising the seniors for all of the contributions they've made to the team in their time at North Carolina. It was their play on Sunday, led by Guenther, that helped the Tar Heels preserve a second straight undefeated season going into the ACC tournament.
“They’ve grown up in the program and really know what it’s all about, and I think they set the standard for the younger players," Shelton said. "They’re the hardest workers, the most committed and most mature, so we rely on them to teach the others and to lead. And lead not only vocally, but to lead by example. So, it’s all incredibly important to continue this culture that has led to this point in the season."
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