The North Carolina field hockey team defeated Michigan 4-3 to win its third-straight NCAA Championship Sunday evening.
After shutting out Stanford and Iowa in its first two games of the NCAA tournament, the No. 1 seed Tar Heels faced No. 2 seed Michigan in Karen Shelton Stadium for the title.
The Wolverines got out to an early lead with a goal that slid past UNC senior goalkeeper Amanda Hendry with five minutes left in the first quarter. Just 33 seconds later, the Tar Heels evened the score with a corner shot off the stick of junior forward Erin Matson.
The second quarter saw an offensive barrage from Michigan, with the Wolverines getting a total of five shots on goal, all unsuccessful. In contrast, UNC had only two shots — the first being a penalty stroke shot by senior forward Bryn Boylan. With Boylan’s smart, low-velocity shot to the right corner of the net, North Carolina earned its second goal of the night.
The lead continued to grow for UNC in the third quarter, as first-year forward Mia Leonardt scored off an assist from Matson to bump the score 3-1. The Wolverines promptly responded with two unanswered goals, tying the score at 3-3.
After the fourth quarter ended with both teams at a standstill, the teams went into a 7-on-7, sudden-victory overtime period.
At almost seven minutes past regulation, UNC was awarded a penalty corner. Set up by senior midfielder Eva Smolenaars, Matson hit a reverse and scored to clinch the team’s third-straight NCAA title.
Who stood out?
Matson not only scored North Carolina’s initial shot and game winner, but she led the nation in scoring during the 2020-21 season and was named NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player. As another key offensive contributor, Boylan is four-for-four in penalty strokes on the campaign.
On defense, Hendry had four saves during the game and sophomore back Madison Orobono provided key stops, including one defensive save in North Carolina’s circle.
When was it decided?
Because of the tight offensive matchup, both teams fought relentlessly past regulation. After Leonart’s goal in the third, which put UNC up 3-1, it seemed as though the game was going to end in the Tar Heels’ favor. But when the Wolverines caught up two points in the third, UNC failed to answer in the following period and sent the teams into a climactic overtime.
With Matson’s netted ball, UNC posts a 7-0 record in overtime games this season, breaking the previous school record of six in 2011.
Why does it matter?
This game marks North Carolina’s third consecutive National Championship and ninth all-time — tying UNC with Old Dominion for the most NCAA titles in field hockey history. The Tar Heels finished their 2020-21 season 19-1 overall and 9-1 in conference play, dropping only one game to Louisville in the fall, their first loss since 2017. It's the first time that a UNC team won a title in Chapel Hill since 1993, when women’s soccer took home the trophy in the Mia Hamm era.