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Friday February 3rd

Analysis: A DTH sportswriter makes his picks for 2019-20 end of season awards

UNC Sophomore forward Erin Matson (1) dodges past Boston College player as she dribbles the ball towards the goal in the NCAA Final Four game against BC at Kentner Stadium on Friday, Nov. 22, 2019. UNC won 6-3, with four goals scored by Matson.
Buy Photos UNC Sophomore forward Erin Matson (1) dodges past Boston College player as she dribbles the ball towards the goal in the NCAA Final Four game against BC at Kentner Stadium on Friday, Nov. 22, 2019. UNC won 6-3, with four goals scored by Matson.

With the spread of COVID-19 bringing an end to an unpredictable year for North Carolina athletics, it's now time to reflect on the year as a whole over two months before some spring competitions were originally set to wrap up.

While this list may feel incomplete — both men’s and women’s lacrosse appeared to be in contention for national championships, and every winter and spring team missed out on its respective postseasons — it's our attempt at dealing out some end of year awards for 2019-20.

Most impressive: Field hockey

23-0.

That was the UNC field hockey team’s final record, scorching through a schedule packed full of nationally ranked opponents on the way to a dominant 6-1 victory over No. 9 Princeton in the NCAA championship. If 2019’s perfection wasn’t enough to convince you that these Tar Heels are the most dominant team in Chapel Hill, consider the fact that that campaign was preceded by another undefeated national championship season in 2018.

With three All-Americans, led by National Player of the Year Erin Matson, this North Carolina team was the obvious choice for UNC Team of the Year and put together one of the most impressive showings of any program across the country.

While women’s lacrosse could have competed for this spot if the remainder of its season had played out, there is no question that field hockey takes the day when it comes to team-based supremacy right now.

Most improved: Football

Coming off the heels of consecutive seasons in which the North Carolina football team missed out on a bowl appearance, head coach Mack Brown inherited a program that had seemingly lost its ability to string together wins. 

With the addition of first-year phenom Sam Howell and development from veterans on both sides of the ball, UNC put together a seven-win campaign in Brown’s first year back in Chapel Hill, culminating in a resounding 55-13 victory over Temple in the Military Bowl.

Early wins over South Carolina and Miami and a one-point loss to No. 1 Clemson convinced a fan base that had previously been dormant to believe that the Tar Heels could reach national prominence in the coming years.

With the addition of a top-20 recruiting class coming in, and a class currently ranked in the top-five for the following season, UNC football’s comeback doesn’t look to be ending anytime soon. 

Biggest surprise: Men’s basketball

While surprises can be a good thing in the world of sports, for a UNC men’s basketball team that typically holds itself to a championship-or-bust standard, the twists and turns that this season held were less than ideal.

Despite the addition of first-year firepower from guard Cole Anthony and forward Armando Bacot, along with huge improvements from forward Garrison Brooks, injuries and the loss of a multitude of contributors from the 2018-19 squad led to a sharp decline for this year’s North Carolina team.

A 14-19 record was Roy Williams' first losing season as a head coach and included seven games decided by three points or less, a four-point loss to Wofford in Carmichael Arena and a 59-game home winning streak against Clemson snapped in an overtime loss.

By the time North Carolina suffered its final loss, an 81-53 drubbing at the hands of Syracuse in the second round of the ACC Tournament, a poor outing came as anything but a surprise after the near-constant struggles of the season.

@zachycrain

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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