The North Carolina field hockey team (10-1, 4-1 ACC) secured an ACC Championship on Sunday in Karen Shelton Stadium, defeating top-seeded Louisville (8-2, 5-1 ACC), which had beaten the Tar Heels earlier in the season to snap their historic 47-game winning streak.
The Cardinals struck first after dominating the opening minutes of the match, finding their way onto the scoreboard by way of a blast from redshirt sophomore Katie Schneider from the middle of the circle. Before the Tar Heels could even take a shot, Louisville had already notched three shots and one penalty corner. At the end of the first 15 minutes of play, UNC had taken just one shot in the final minute, as the Cardinals held a firm lead in the time-of-possession battle.
Less than four minutes into the second quarter, Louisville struck again, turning its second penalty corner opportunity into a goal to take a commanding 2-0 lead.
Halfway through the second period, the Tar Heels got their first real opportunity, after junior forward Erin Matson drew a penalty in front of the net. In UNC’s first penalty corner of the day, Matson converted, slamming the ball into the upper right corner of the net to shrink the Louisville lead to 2-1.
North Carolina drew another penalty corner with less than two minutes remaining in the first half, but failed to convert it into a scoring opportunity. Going into the break, the Tar Heels’ deficit remained at 2-1, with Louisville dominating time-of-possession and taking six shots to UNC’s three.
A back-and-forth third quarter saw neither team budge through its first ten minutes, until North Carolina senior Bryn Boylan found the back of the net, equalizing the match at 2-2 with the Tar Heels’ second consecutive goal.
As the clock wound down in the third quarter, UNC maintained an advantage in possession, moving the ball deep into Louisville territory multiple times and threatening to take its first lead of the season against the Cardinals entering the final period. After minutes of attacking the Louisville defense, the Tar Heels stuck again with under two minutes remaining in the quarter by way of a goal from sophomore back Madison Orobono, taking a 3-2 lead into the final frame.
A goal coming off of a penalty corner from Matson secured the victory for North Carolina in the 59th minute, as the Tar Heels took a 4-2 lead they would never give back.
Who stood out?
Despite impressive offensive performances from many of the Tar Heels — including six who scored or assisted in North Carolina’s four goals — it was senior goalkeeper Amanda Hendry, who finished with four saves, and UNC’s defense that protected a narrow Tar Heel lead in the waning moments of the match, that were the stars. Louisville attempted eight penalty corners, most of which came in the last 17 minutes of the match while UNC protected a one-goal lead. For all of the fourth quarter, even with plenty of quality Louisville chances, Hendry and the Tar Heels stood tall in front of the net.
When was it decided?
Not until the final moments, when Matson buried the ball in the back of the net to take a two-goal lead, was this game truly over. Louisville was extremely aggressive offensively throughout the game, totaling 16 shots with its eight penalty corners, and could have converted if given the opportunity in a one-goal game.
Why does it matter?
Despite the absence of an NCAA Tournament for the fall season, the Tar Heels managed to win their fourth consecutive ACC Championship. With the win, UNC also managed to avenge their loss to the Cardinals earlier this season, which remains their lone loss since Nov. 17, 2017.
When do they play next?
UNC’s fall season is done, but with the NCAA’s decision to move fall championships to the spring, the Tar Heels should have a chance to compete for their third consecutive national championship in the coming months.
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