The No. 10 North Carolina field hockey team (10-6, 4-2 ACC) was in Charlottesville, Va. on Friday evening and picked up a 3-2 win over No. 16 Virginia (10-7, 3-3 ACC) in its final regular season game of the season.
The game began with both teams fighting for possession in the initial five minutes of the first period. By the eighth minute, the Tar Heels had begun to attack more aggressively. Senior midfielder Cassie Sumfest and first year forward Kennedy Cliggett both applied shots on goal, but they were each saved by Virginia’s goalkeeper, Tyler Kennedy. Four minutes later, senior midfielder Eva Smolenaars also found goal, but her shot was saved as well.
Later, in the 12th minute, senior forward Erin Matson — who returned after missing the last three games with a finger injury — scored from the left side, and with that, the first period ended with a 1-0 lead for the Tar Heels.
The second period proved to be more of an attacking display than the first. In the first minute of the period, Virginia senior back Amber Ezechiels and junior back Cato Geusgens each had their shots saved by UNC’s first-year goalkeeper Abigail Taylor, Unabated, Matson scored again for the Tar Heels off of an assist from Smolenaars, and UNC led 2-0.
However, the Cavaliers would not trail for long. In the 20th minute, Virginia back Makayla Gallen scored on a second chance opportunity. Soon after, striker Laura Janssen scored by way of an assist from fellow striker Peyton Tollaksen. This goal ended an eventful period with the score locked at 2-2.
The third period saw shots from UNC junior back Romea Riccardo, senior forward Meredith Sholder, and Smolenaars, but none found the back of the net. Gallen added another shot on target for Virginia, but it was saved by Taylor. The fourth period was even less exciting, and regulation ended 2-2 as the two teams headed into overtime.
North Carolina wasted no time winning back the momentum, and the game as a result. Only four minutes into the overtime period, Matson scored her third goal of the game, and 21st of the season, to take the game for North Carolina.
Who stood out?
Matson was unquestionably the player of the game, as she scored all of the Tar Heels’ goals including the golden goal in overtime, despite this being her first game back coming off of an injury.
“I spent too many games on the sidelines,” Matson said. “For me to score the goals and put it away for the team was really special, but it wasn’t just a one-man show out there which is what we’re all about.”
Head coach Karen Shelton also highlighted the importance of having her star player back on the field.
“She’s a game changer,” Shelton said. “She’s important in regulation and in overtime and it’s great to have her back.”
When was it decided?
North Carolina dominated throughout overtime, as the team possessed the ball in Virgnina’s half for nearly the entirety of the extra period leading up to Matson’s final goal. That being said, no moment other than her third goal can be viewed as decisive.
Why does it matter?
This was North Carolina’s last game before the onset of ACC Tournament play which starts Thursday, Nov. 4th. Finishing the regular season with a win will serve the Tar Heels’ confidence well as they enter the postseason.
“I think it was an important game for our team and for our resume in terms of postseason seeding,” Shelton said. “I think we are a team who can compete with the best in the nation.”
When do they play next?
The ACC Championship will be played in its entirety in Syracuse, N.Y. The third-seeded Tar Heels will play the sixth-seeded Wake Forest, a team they beat just weeks ago, on Thursday at 6 p.m.
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