Coming off an impressive double-overtime win against rival Duke, the No. 1 North Carolina field hockey team went into Friday’s match against No. 12 Virginia with its heads held high.
But the Tar Heels would once again be tested in a hard-fought battle. And for the second straight game, they won the match in overtime, defeating the Cavaliers, 3-2.
“It was a very physical game," head coach Karen Shelton said. "It wasn’t a pretty game to watch; it was a hard-fought, kind of gritty game.”
The game was characterized by tough offensive attacks from both teams. Junior forward Erin Matson proved herself once again to be one of the most dangerous players in the country, although she credited her team with the victory.
“I’m really lucky to be on a team where everybody steps up every game and works together and pushes and challenges each other, and I think that’s huge for us,” Matson said. “We’re really lucky to have this kind of culture.”
Ending the first period with no score, the Tar Heels knew this bout with the Cavaliers was not going to be an easy one. UNC had to break a tie in the fourth quarter to secure a win in its previous matchup with the Cavaliers this season. However, working as a team is what carried the Tar Heels to a 1-0 lead early in the second period.
“We had to make sure that we were constantly tight on our mark, and we did this through constantly communicating with each other,” senior goalkeeper Amanda Hendry said. “I had to be super aware of all of the players in the circle and communicating to my teammates who they needed to mark.”
Eight minutes after her first goal, Matson found the back of the cage once again to put UNC up by two going into the second half.
The Cavaliers responded late in the third period, putting their first goal on the board. They used their momentum to later tie the match with a score just before the end of regulation.
This meant that the Tar Heels would be battling in overtime again to clinch a victory. It didn’t shake their confidence, though — North Carolina is trained for these circumstances.
“Coach does a great job with us, practicing situations like overtime, so once we get into situations like that in a game, we treat it just like practice so we’re prepared really well,” Matson said.
The high-pressure situation was not a new feeling for the Tar Heels. Just like they did against Duke, they were able to get the clutch goal they needed to squeak out a win.
“It helped us with our confidence going into an overtime period. We practice overtime all the time, but it is a completely different feel when you have to step up in a game,” Hendry said. “We went into overtime knowing what we had to do and having the confidence to complete it.”
And complete it they did.
Less than a minute into the overtime period, Matson scored her 21st goal of the season to give UNC its second consecutive overtime victory.
“Our team played incredibly well in the overtime period — in fact, we got the push back and UVA never got the ball back,” Shelton said. “It was textbook the way they played today, and I am very, very proud of them.”