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Preview: These three things can help UNC field hockey beat Duke yet again

Erin Matson (1) races Duke player for ball in a game that UNC won 2-0, marking their 33rd consecutive victory.
Buy Photos Erin Matson (1) races Duke player for ball in a 2019 game that UNC won 2-0.

The North Carolina women's field hockey team is slated to play Duke on Friday at 2 p.m. in Karen Shelton Stadium, with the Tar Heels looking to add another victory to their perfect 2-0 start this spring and 12-1 overall record.

In the fall, the Tar Heels defeated the Blue Devils twice. Here’s how they can beat their archrival yet again.

Utilize weapons and neutralize Duke’s

In both fall matchups against the Blue Devils, junior forwards Erin Matson and Hannah Griggs scored. In the more recent contest on Oct. 18, Griggs scored a game-winning overtime goal off an assist from Matson. 

Since then, Matson has scored 11 goals, while Griggs has added another assist, giving her three goals and two assists on the year. After Griggs’ clutch goal the last time UNC faced Duke, she’s due for another heroic moment off the bench. 

North Carolina also must be prepared to defend standout Duke first-year Darcy Bourne, who leads the Blue Devils with 15 points, consisting of seven goals and one assist. She takes any opportunity she can to shoot, totaling 38 attempts on the season — seven more than her closest teammate.

Duke senior Lexi Davidson has two goals of her own this season and four assists. One of those goals was to tie the last game against North Carolina, forcing the Tar Heels into their first overtime of the season. 

Preventing Bourne from capitalizing on shot attempts is key for the Tar Heels on their path to earning another win against their crosstown rival. They also must keep themselves out of a position where any late-game heroics could threaten their 11-game win streak.

Take advantage of momentum

North Carolina has the momentum going into this contest, so in order to come out with a win, it must find ways to keep that momentum alive. Duke’s 3-10 record stands in stark contrast to North Carolina’s 11-game unbeaten run — which started with the first win against Duke. 

The Blue Devils are also coming off a three-game losing streak, so the Tar Heels must capitalize on their rivals' recent struggles. To do this, North Carolina needs to attack quickly and relentlessly, so the Blue Devils have no chance to find their rhythm.  

Much like in UNC's last game against Wake Forest, where the Tar Heels scored both goals following penalty corners, they must also be fierce on the counterattack. 

North Carolina has to get everyone involved on offense, a strategy that paid dividends against the Demon Deacons. In that game, although Matson put on a show of her own, six different players — including three substitutes — took shots. 

Tar Heel turf

The home-field advantage may also benefit the Tar Heels since they have not lost at Karen Shelton Stadium since it was built in 2018. The Tar Heels have gone undefeated with 33 wins in the stadium, so any loss — much less a loss to their most hated rivals — would destroy the perfection that has come with their new home turf.

Thanks to the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, the last home game for the Tar Heels brought over 200 fans to the stands. This increased fan presence and the creation of a home-field advantage can only help the Tar Heels, who already have the statistical edge over the Blue Devils.

Despite North Carolina going into this game a clear favorite, the Tar Heels can’t underestimate Duke if they want to win. After all, the last game between the teams wasn’t decided until an 11th-hour goal. 

But if the Tar Heels go into this matchup with their heads down, weapons ready and fans behind them, there’s no reason to believe they can’t feed the Blue Devils their 11th loss of the season.

@madikirk31

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com




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