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Saturday February 4th

'That's the Carolina way': No. 1 UNC field hockey beats Duke to end season unbeaten at home

Members of the UNC Field Hockey team celebrate after junior forward Erin Matson (1) scores the second goal of the game against Syracuse. The Tar Heels won the ACC Semifinals with a 4-3 score on Friday, Nov. 6, 2020.
Buy Photos Members of the UNC Field Hockey team celebrate after junior forward Erin Matson (1) scores the second goal of the game against Syracuse. The Tar Heels won the ACC Semifinals with a 4-3 score on Friday, Nov. 6, 2020.

The No. 1 North Carolina field hockey team hosted No. 15 Duke for Senior Day on Friday in a challenging double overtime matchup, notching a 4-3 win the “Carolina way.”

Although the stats might have pointed to a clear winner before the game’s starting passback, the Tobacco Road rivalry brought that extra competitive edge, as both teams fought through two overtimes to determine a winner.

After two October matchups against the Blue Devils, the Tar Heels knew exactly who they were up against.

“They always say you throw out the record books when Duke plays Carolina, and that was absolutely the case today,” head coach Karen Shelton said. “Across-town rivals, it was everything you could ask for.”

On the chilly Friday afternoon, 225 fans attended the game to cheer UNC on — the biggest crowd the team has seen all season. With home-field advantage, the Tar Heels played their standard offensively-driven first period, with junior Erin Matson scoring North Carolina’s first goal on a free possession. 

At that point, Matson had been the only Tar Heel to score a goal in the spring season. Then came the second quarter. 

Duke commanded the tempo of the game as Blue Devil Libby Thompson shot from the perimeter of the circle to net the ball — the first goal allowed by the Tar Heels all spring. Duke got two penalty corners later in the period, capitalizing on the second to steal the lead, going up 2-1 at the half.

Shelton knew she had to change the narrative of the game after Duke’s two unanswered goals.

“I told them I was disappointed in the way we were playing,” Shelton said. “I thought that Duke was out-playing us with passion, hard work and intensity.”

Going into the third, the Tar Heels realized they needed more than just Matson’s shots to win. Redshirt junior back Cassie Sumfest took the initiative and rocketed the ball in off a penalty corner to tie the score. UNC then regained the lead with a goal sunk by sophomore midfielder Paityn Wirth.

Just a minute later, Duke responded to tie up the score, 3-3, heading into the fourth.

The final period of regulation saw stellar defense on both sides of the field. UNC got nine shots on goal in the period, all of which were blocked by Duke’s goalie, Piper Hampsch, who had an outstanding 19 saves in the game. Keeping the ball in Tar Heel possession, not one Blue Devil had a shot on goal the entire quarter.

“We were just focused on communication, not giving them another opportunity, and keeping them out of our 25 even before they got to our circle,” graduate back Courtnie Williamson said. “I think we all knew we needed to step it up, get loud, get in front and intercept those balls before they could get to them.”

The clock ticked down to end regulation at a gridlocked score, sending the rivals into overtime. 

After a stalemated first extra period, the teams went into their second overtime, the most minutes either has seen this season. In the 77th minute of play, senior forward Bryn Boylan got fouled in the circle, and was given a penalty stroke.

And on Senior Night, the senior fired the game-winning shot past Hampsch to finish the game with a North Carolina victory, 4-3.

“Coach always says ‘play the Carolina way: hard, smart, together,’” Boylan said. “And I think we really did that and that’s why we came out on top.”

Completing a perfect 10-0 record at home for the season with a win versus their rivals, the Tar Heels honored their departing seniors in the best way possible.

“That’s a classic Carolina move to just keep playing two overtimes — I’m so proud of everyone, they absolutely worked their butts off,” Williamson said. “That’s the Carolina way.”

@DTHSports |

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