The Daily Tar Heel

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Saturday January 28th

UNC field hockey honors senior class in 3-2 OT loss to Louisville

First-year forward Kennedy Cliggett (36) fights for the ball at the field hockey game against Louisville on Oct. 22 at the Karen Shelton Stadium. UNC lost 2-3 in overtime.
Buy Photos First-year forward Kennedy Cliggett (36) fights for the ball at the field hockey game against Louisville on Oct. 22 at the Karen Shelton Stadium. UNC lost 2-3 in overtime.

When the No. 4 Louisville field hockey team came to Chapel Hill for a Friday matchup, the No. 10 Tar Heels were a rare underdog.

The two teams had notable bouts last season, first when Louisville snapped UNC’s 47-game winning streak and again when the Tar Heels came from two goals behind in the 2020 ACC championship to win 4-2.

Friday’s game, which ended in a 3-2 Tar Heel defeat in overtime, was no exception to the drama-filled battles of the past.

Although the outcome is not what the team had hoped for, the Tar Heels were able to celebrate Senior Day before the game. The Tar Heels commemorated the careers of seven graduating seniors who played a part in the team winning three national titles and four ACC championships — Abby Pitcairn, Riley Fulmer, Meredith Sholder, Cassie Sumfest, Hannah Griggs, Cassie Halpin and Eva Smolenaars.

“We were playing for the seniors tonight, and I thought we played really, really well," head coach Karen Shelton said. "We just didn’t come away with the result.”

With just a few minutes left in regulation, Griggs tied the game at two goals apiece, which marked a momentous occasion for the departing player.

“With that being the goal to tie the game and go to overtime, it was huge for me,” she said. “We were just trying to find everything in us to get another one, so putting one in was really an awesome feeling.”

Sumfest, who got the assist on that goal, said she was trying to implement a strategy that Shelton has long focused the team’s attention on.

“Something coach has always emphasized is to go to the far side because that’s where the most players on our team are,” Sumfest said. “So that’s what I was really just trying to do — to either get it in that corner on the goal or find a teammate.”

Almost 10 minutes into the overtime period, the Cardinals pushed through to score the goal that clinched them a 3-2 win. Despite the outcome, Shelton said she saw some positive areas her team can build on moving closer to postseason play.

“I thought it was our best passing game,” Shelton said. “I thought we passed the ball really well inside and outside. After losing the ball, I thought we regained possession an awful lot.”

In addition to the seniors’ performance, several younger players also rose to the occasion. First-year forward/midfielder Kennedy Cliggett broke a scoreless tie and gave the Tar Heels the lead in the third period.

“It’s great to see younger players stepping up since we are still a young team,” Sumfest said. "It’s really great to see them mature throughout the year and it’s amazing to see Kennedy step up while Erin (Matson) is out.”

The Tar Heels will travel to Charlottesville, Virginia on Friday to play Virginia in their final game of the regular season. It will be the team’s last tune-up before postseason play, but with star senior forward Erin Matson nearing a return after a finger injury, the Tar Heels will embrace any lesson they can receive.

“The loss doesn’t feel great right now but we came a long way during this game compared to the last few weeks,” Griggs said. “We’re going to push through this week and hopefully we can maybe even get Erin back by next Friday.”

@dthsports |

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