The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday February 8th

UNC field hockey overcomes a relentless Syracuse team in 1-0 victory

UNC junior forward Erin Matson (1) drives the ball up the field against Syracuse on Oct. 16, 2020 in the Karen Shelton Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C. Matson scored the only goal of the game, letting UNC beat Syracuse 1-0.
Buy Photos UNC junior forward Erin Matson (1) drives the ball up the field against Syracuse on Oct. 16, 2020 in the Karen Shelton Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C. Matson scored the only goal of the game, letting UNC beat Syracuse 1-0.

The North Carolina Field Hockey team (5-1, 3-1 ACC) fought off a relentless Syracuse team (1-3, 1-2 ACC) to win, 1-0, at Karen Shelton Stadium in Chapel Hill looking for its first win against the Tar Heels since the 2015 NCAA championship.

What happened?

After three scoreless quarters, the UNC offense found a spark and scored the game-winning goal midway through the fourth quarter on a penalty corner. The Tar Heels outshot the Orange throughout the match 11-5 and drew double the amount of penalty corners at 6-3, yet couldn't find the back of the goal until the 53rd minute.

After the winning goal, the Tar Heels were able to contain Syracuse’s offense and kept them scoreless by the time the buzzer rang.

UNC field hockey head Karen Shelton was thrilled with the outcome of the match, especially in the fourth quarter.

“We try and pride ourselves with our fourth quarter game. We want to be a fourth quarter team. But they were a really good team. They were well better than what we expected from the scout. So they earned our respect in the first quarter and (throughout the game) it was a bit of a boxing match” 

Who stood out?

Junior Erin Matson led the team with four shots and one unassisted goal, the only score of the game. Throughout the game, Matson kept the Syracuse defense on its toes with multiple steals and intercepted passes in their zone.

“I’m very thrilled with Erin’s execution to eliminate the first runner on the penalty corner and put the ball in the goal,” Shelton said.

The entire North Carolina defense was the most dynamic unit in the match, keeping Syracuse scoreless in the hour of play. Shelton was nothing short of pleased of her group.

“Hats off to our defense,” Shelton said. “I thought Romea Riccardo played well, Courtney Williamson, Cassie Sumfest, Eva (Smolenaars). The entire team played well, it’s tough when I shout only some people out. But it was a great team effort, I think both teams played really hard.”

When was it decided?

The game was decided at the final buzzer. The Heels were able to get a decisive goal on a corner with six minutes left in the game, but Syracuse led a few unsuccessful late quarter pushes into the goal-scoring zone. The Orange’s final possession came to a close when UNC defenders stripped the ball away and took it to the corner for the time to bleed out.

Why does it matter?

The Tar Heels look to finish the season strong, trailing only Louisville in the ACC standings. With two definite games left and one postponed, the Tar Heels want to maintain a high seed for the ACC tournament in November, hoping to potentially jump up to the No. 1 seed.

“We haven’t had since the Louisville game really a tough contest (until now), so I think that helps us get stronger and tougher as we get ready for the ACC tournament in a couple of weeks,” Shelton said.

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels play Duke (0-4) in a rivalry matchup on Sunday, October 18 at 1:00 p.m. at home.

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