It was the third quarter of the NCAA Semifinals game against Iowa, and the North Carolina field hockey team was just minutes away from punching its ticket to the title game.
On a penalty corner, UNC junior forward Erin Matson swiped the ball off the insert straight into the back of the net to put her team up three points. It was Matson's 27th goal of the season — tying Iowa’s goal total for the team's entire 2020-2021 campaign.
The performance seemed pretty textbook for UNC field hockey, a team that has made the Final Four 12 years in a row and is chasing its third-straight national championship.
But it wasn’t just Matson who contributed to the 3-0 shutout against the Hawkeyes — her score was the cherry on top of two other goals from first-year midfielder Katie Dixon and first-year forward Mia Leonhardt.
Dixon posted her first career goal in the second quarter to open up the scoring. She was assisted by Leonhardt, who followed Dixon’s goal with the first of her own in the third.
“Erin, she’s always so helpful in telling us where to go on the press and when to pressure the defense,” Leonhardt said.
Matson and her veteran team have excelled in mentoring the rookies, who rose to the occasion in the Final Four matchup. The first-year players capitalized on their opportunities on Friday, making the Tar Heels' depth look better than ever.
UNC's win over Iowa did not come easy, though. The first 20 minutes of play were a pure defensive battle, as both teams struggled to make plays past their midlines, each only getting off one shot in the first quarter.
Dixon’s goal turned the tide of the game in North Carolina’s favor.