The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday February 8th

Taking a look back at UNC field hockey's now-ended historic two-year winning streak

<p>Senior midfielder Yentl Leemans (18) strikes the ball during the game against Louisville on September 20th, 2019.</p>
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Senior midfielder Yentl Leemans (18) strikes the ball during the game against Louisville on September 20th, 2019.

After losing to UConn in the NCAA Semifinals in November 2017, UNC’s field hockey team responded with a two-year-long run of dominance that rivaled any run in collegiate sports this decade. 

Prior to the loss against Louisville on Friday, UNC held the longest active winning streak among all Division 1 sports with 47 consecutive victories. It also was the second-longest streak in NCAA Division 1 field hockey history.  

On Aug. 25, 2018, the team defeated the Michigan Wolverines 5-1 in the season opener, igniting the historic winning streak. After finishing the 2017 season with a record of 18-5, North Carolina went undefeated in 2018 with a record of 23-0. The team opened conference play against Louisville that year, winning 3-1 as it proceeded to sweep the ACC that season. 

UNC finished its 2018 campaign out-scoring its opponents 103-16. Erin Matson, a first-year forward at the time, led the team with 20 goals and 19 assists. Ashley Hoffman and Catherine Hayden were integral members of the team as well, as they each scored 16 goals each that season.

The 2018 season was capped off with a win in the NCAA National Championship against Maryland, as the Tar Heels won with a score of 2-0. En route to its championship win, UNC defeated William & Mary, Michigan and Wake Forest in the NCAA Tournament as well. 

The following season, it was more of the same. Despite the loss of Hoffman, who graduated after the 2018 season, the rest of the team recovered well and followed up its undefeated season nicely. The Tar Heels won both games in the ACC-Big 10 challenge against Michigan and Iowa. From there, they continued to dominate the opponents on their schedule. UNC finished with a goal differential of 92-24 on the season. Matson led the team in scoring once again, finishing with 33 on the year to go along with 15 assists. 

After beating Boston College in the ACC Championship, North Carolina opened up the NCAA Tournament with wins against Stanford and Iowa. From there, the rematch was set against Boston College in the NCAA semifinals. UNC won the game 6-3 behind four goals from Matson.

North Carolina proceeded to win its second title in a row, beating Princeton 6-1 and completing another 23-0 season. The Tar Heels added to their already impressive history by winning their eighth championship in program history, all of which came under head coach Karen Shelton.

The loss on Friday ended a remarkable stretch of victories, but it also provides an opportunity to appreciate the run for what it was. It's not often that teams in any sport on any level are able to accomplish such a feat. 

While many teams can cultivate a winning environment, going on to win every game over the course of two seasons takes a level of dominance that even the most talented teams typically don’t reach. Though winning championships ultimately validate a program, the 47 games that UNC won exemplified the combination of skill and hard work that the squad possessed. 

Over the last two years, losing has become an anomaly for this team. Following its win against Duke on Sunday, it would be hard to overlook the possibility of another long winning streak.


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