UNC field hockey ground out a 2-1 victory in the second leg of an unusual back-to-back versus Virginia on Monday afternoon in Chapel Hill.
The Tar Heels, who were coming off of a 5-1 win over the Cavaliers on Sunday, had to face Virginia again the next day due to the ACC's modified schedule during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We haven’t played back-to-back against the same opponent in years,” UNC head coach Karen Shelton said. “UVA has done it twice already this season. So I think that was a little to their advantage, but, again, I think our team did fine.”
Senior Eva Smolenaars, who had the first goal for the Tar Heels on Monday, relished the opportunity to get better on such short rest.
“Normally we have at least one day in between,” Smolenaars said. “So it was definitely a great experience for us.”
Junior Erin Matson — who has drawn comparisons to Michael Jordan over the last two seasons as the Tar Heels went undefeated and won two national championships — created that initial opportunity for Smolenaars with a slick pass between two UVA defenders.
“She passed the ball to me, and it was a one-on-one with the goalie,” Smolenaars said. “The goalie actually did a really great job coming up, so it was hard and I didn’t really expect it. But I got around it and was able to get a shot on target.”
Matson assisted on the game-winning goal with about eight minutes left, passing the ball to redshirt junior Meredith Sholder, who quickly scored to put the Tar Heels up 2-1.
“It was a great buildup,” Matson said. “Meredith Sholder was in a good position. I knew as long as I got it somewhere near the cage, someone was gonna be there. I didn’t have an angle to take a true shot, so I just tried to get it over there and it was a clean deflection like we practice.”
The UNC team was facing off against a former Tar Heel in one of Virginia's assistant coaches, Rachel Dawson, whose No. 9 jersey was retired by UNC in 2008. Dawson was named the 2007 National Player of the Year after leading UNC to an undefeated national championship season. Now, she is part of the Virginia coaching staff that earned praise from Shelton following Monday's matchup.
“Well, credit to UVA for making some really good adjustments to make it tougher than it was yesterday,” Shelton said. “I thought it was a good game by two teams that fought hard. We had a lot of chances, and I thought we left a lot out there, especially in the first half.”
The Tar Heels have now won three games in a row after their impressive 47-game win streak was broken versus the Louisville Cardinals on Oct. 2. They aim to continue their new streak on Friday against Syracuse.
“The overall feeling is that we are really happy and we are looking forward to Syracuse on Friday,” Matson said.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.