Following two early losses against Michigan and Iowa, the No. 1 North Carolina field hockey team picked up its first win of the season with a 4-1 victory against No. 13 Princeton on Friday afternoon.
In a rematch of the 2019 NCAA Championship game, the Tar Heels gained momentum early, scoring only four minutes into the first quarter when Katie Dixon was able to find the back of the net for her first goal of the season. Princeton would go on to take control of the quarter — posting five shots to North Carolina’s three and three penalty corners to North Carolina’s zero — but remained scoreless after the first buzzer rang.
Unlike the first quarter, the Tar Heels came into the second out-shooting Princeton, yet the Tigers managed to tie the match in the 23rd minute. The tie did not last long, as Kennedy Cliggett netted a second goal for North Carolina in the 24th minute on an assist from Jasmina Smolenaars. The two teams managed to finish the rest of the quarter without any more goals, cementing the Tar Heels’ one goal lead at halftime.
The third quarter was played relatively even between both teams, with the final shot tally for the quarter ending at three for each team. The Tar Heels managed to pad the score with another goal in the 41st minute, when Eva Smolenaars recorded her second goal of the season off an assist from Cassie Sumfest.
The Tar Heels continued their standout defensive play into the fourth quarter, keeping Princeton scoreless and scoring a final goal in the 51st minute. Hannah Griggs scored her second goal of the season off of an assist from Erin Matson, which would effectively end the game with a 4-1 North Carolina victory. The Tar Heels outshot the Tigers 6-2 in the quarter, which resulted in a 16-12 overall shot advantage in their favor.
Who stood out?
Goalkeeper Abigail Taylor had a tremendous outing, allowing only one goal off seven shots and keeping Princeton scoreless in the second half.
The Smolenaars sisters also showcased their on-field chemistry, with Eva scoring a goal in the third quarter and Jasmina recording an assist in the second quarter. Though they each only had one score-related statistic, the sisters managed to maintain an offensive presence that left the Tigers in a deficit for 55 of the 60 minutes on the field.
When was it decided?
The game was effectively decided in the 51st minute when Griggs scored, giving North Carolina a three-goal lead on a Princeton team that had already had trouble finding the back of the net. The standout defense from the Tar Heels kept the lead safe in the rest of the final minutes.
Why does it matter?
This game proves to Tar Heel fans that North Carolina is not done for the season; though two losses for the top team in the country is a tough way to open the season, they were against two of the nation’s top teams in Michigan and Iowa. This game against a top-15 opponent gives the Tar Heels the momentum boost they needed going into the regular season.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will stay in New Jersey this weekend and play the University of Pennsylvania on Sunday at 11 a.m. on Princeton’s field.
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