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Wednesday February 8th

UNC Field Hockey defeats Wake Forest 3-1 in season opener

<p>Midfielder Yentl Leemans (18) looks down the field during Sunday's ACC championship game against Wake Forest. UNC won 7-2.</p>
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Midfielder Yentl Leemans (18) looks down the field during Sunday's ACC championship game against Wake Forest. UNC won 7-2.

46-0? Let’s make that 47. The North Carolina Field Hockey team continued its now-three-year-long winning streak in the 2020 season opener on Sunday with a strong defensive 3-1 victory over conference rival Wake Forest at Kentner Stadium in Winston-Salem. 

What happened? 

The game started slowly, with the first goal not being scored until the second quarter, on a penalty play from Cassie Sumfest, the Tar Heels' first goal of the season. Wake Forest evened the score 1-1 under four minutes later, but UNC took the lead again near the end of the second quarter off a goal from Erin Matson.

North Carolina extended the lead to two in the third quarter with a goal from Meredith Shoulder in the third quarter, the final goal of the game, before UNC held on through the fourth quarter to win the match and extend the team's winning streak to 47. 

Coach Karen Shelton expressed her pleasure with the team’s performance, but made it clear she was only focused on the games and not the winning streak. 

“This is a brand new year with a brand new team,” Shelton said. “Our focus is to simply grow. Both of these teams went into this game blind, neither team knowing much about the other. We had last year to go on, and players graduate and new players come in, so we were both vastly different teams.” 

Who stood out? 

Senior standout Matson, as well as juniors Sumfest and Sholder all scored one goal, with Matson scoring the 54th goal in her collegiate career, making her the 10th highest goal scorer in North Carolina Field Hockey history. 

Matson also tacked an assist onto her day’s stat line, accompanied by sophomore Madison Orobono and junior Abby Pitcairn who each helped assist the other two goals. 

When was it decided? 

The bout was close throughout, but Matson scored the game winning goal 11 seconds before halftime on a penalty corner. Sholder, along with the Tar Heels’ stellar defense, was able to ice the game in the second half. 

“When you get a goal late in the half it’s a boost for the team that scores and a bit deflating for the team that’s scored upon,” Shelton said. A huge goal, great to see [Matson] stick one when it counted. 

“We were also really pleased to see the other two goal scores. Meredith Sholder, who is coming off an injury from last year, she was out for the entire season, she gets a goal in the game. Same for Cassie Sumfest, she was rehabbing a knee injury, was out for the entire year, and comes back and gets a goal. Really happy for all three of those kids to get a goal in our first game.” 

Why does it matter? 

North Carolina starts their shortened season with a much-needed win against a difficult team to boost them to first overall in the ACC standings.  

With only nine total games in the regular season and all of them being against ACC teams, UNC will need to play at the top of their game to uphold their win streak and status as one of the nation’s top teams. 

“I’m very happy, but there’s a lot of ways we can improve," Shelton said. "We had a lot of careless turnovers, some fundamental mistakes that cost us, ways that we can play better in the middle of the field. We’ll look at the video tape and hopefully take a step. I think it was a great opener with lots to improve on, but we’re thrilled to get the win at Wake Forest." 

When do they play next? 

UNC’s next game will be Friday, Oct. 2 at Louisville, and the Tar Heels will soon after return to the Triangle for a matchup on Sunday, Oct. 4 at Duke. The two away games in a three-day span should prove to be a challenge for the Heels. 

@igbryant619

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com  

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