The No. 1 North Carolina field hockey team (15-1, 9-1 ACC) won its third consecutive overtime game on Sunday afternoon, defeating No. 11 Syracuse (8-8, 4-6 ACC), 4-3.
Both teams went scoreless until the last minute of the first quarter, when UNC junior forward Hannah Griggs found the back of the net. The Faversham, England, native scored her fourth goal of the season off the assist from first-year midfielder Katie Dixon.
Then, less than five minutes into the second quarter, UNC scored again when Matson capitalized on a penalty corner. Senior midfielder Eva Smolenaars inserted the ball to sophomore back Romea Riccardo, who stick stopped for Matson, and the Tar Heels found themselves with a 2-0 lead that they took into halftime.
The Tar Heels came out of the locker room flat, and the Orange took advantage by scoring twice in the third quarter. The first goal came just over two minutes in on a redirect, and the second came on a penalty corner.
That meant the game was tied going into the fourth.
The Orange then took the lead on another penalty corner deflection, which caused Shelton to pull senior goalkeeper Amanda Hendry to gain an additional Tar Heel in the field.
It only took three minutes for the decision to pay off. UNC drew a corner and Matson scored her second goal of the game, assisted by Riccardo, to force a 3-3 tie.
With the game tied at three apiece, Shelton put Hendry back in the game and the teams played the rest of regulation scoreless, forcing overtime for the Tar Heels’ third game in a row.
When was it decided?
Four minutes later, Matson and redshirt junior forward Meredith Shoulder forced an Orange turnover in the middle of the field. Matson controlled the ball and passed it to Smolenaars, who found sophomore midfielder Paityn Wirth open at the 23m line.
Wirth dribbled into the circle and allowed Matson to set up between her defender and the goalkeeper. Wirth then passed to Matson in front of two Orange defenders, and Matson won the game with her third goal of the afternoon.
"I'm pleased with Paityn's assist on the game winning goal,” Shelton said. “She's shown great growth. That was a team goal. Erin got herself in the right place at the right time, but she's got to have her teammates' help too. Paityn had pressure on her and was able to control the ball and find Erin."
Who stood out?
Junior forward Erin Matson scored three of North Carolina’s four goals, marking her second hat trick in as many games. Including the Tar Heels’ last contest, Matson has scored six of UNC’s last seven goals, and 11 of the 15 total during the five games this spring. She now has 24 goals this season, the most in the country.
Shelton had some high praise for her junior forward’s clutch play after the game.
"Erin is one of the greatest competitors we've had the privilege to coach," Shelton said. "When the game is on the line, she wants the ball."
Why does it matter?
With the win, UNC’s record improved to 15-1, including an unblemished 5-0 mark this spring.
"I'm incredibly proud of our team,” head coach Karen Shelton said. “Syracuse is always a tough place to win. We found a way to win and we'll take away important lessons from this game. It was a great game to win, but we still have a lot of work to do.”
1993 was the last time UNC played three consecutive overtimes games, and that year, the occasion came during the NCAA Tournament. The Tar Heels lost the third game that season, but this year, North Carolina won all three to finish its spring regular season unbeaten.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will take on Wake Forest on Friday afternoon for the ACC Championship at Karen Shelton Stadium.
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