No. 9 North Carolina uses a strong second half and three goals from Erin Matson, now at 100 for her career, to take down No. 22 Duke 4-1 on Friday night, improving to 8-4 on the season.
Duke capitalized first off a penalty corner midway through the first period to take a 1-0 lead. It was a defensive battle for most of the half with UNC stopping multiple Duke corners to keep the game close. On the other end, however, the Tar Heels were struggling to get many good scoring opportunities of their own.
It wasn't until 1:42 remaining in the half when UNC was rewarded with its own penalty corner. Off a Paityn Wirth insert, Matson ripped a shot from the top of the circle past the Duke goalkeeper to tie the game up at one heading into halftime.
North Carolina broke the tie in the back half of the third period as Matson struck again with a powerful shot to give UNC its first lead of the game. Just two minutes later, first-year midfielder Jasmina Smolenaars scored a goal off another penalty corner with a great pass from senior Cassie Sumfest to increase the lead to 3-1.
North Carolina continued to put pressure on the Duke defense in the fourth period with Wirth earning a penalty stroke and Matson converting from the spot to make the score 4-1 and secure the win for the Tar Heels.
Who stood out?
Matson was sensational, being a constant source of offense all night long with three goals and six shots on goal. Her third goal of the night would end up being her 18th of the season, and 100th career goal at UNC, a monumental accomplishment for the senior forward.
The starting backline consisting of Madison Orobono, Kelly Smith and Romea Riccardo along with goalkeeper Abigail Taylor were fantastic as well. They only allowed one Duke goal off of 10 penalty corners and 16 total shots, with Taylor recording six saves.
When was it decided?
North Carolina was dominant in the third period as the team pulled away from the Blue Devils to take a two goal lead. Matson had a beautiful run up the right side of the field, cut into the circle and then smashed the ball into the cage to put the Tar Heels up one.
The penalty corner two minutes later was just as crucial, with Smolenaars’ goal giving UNC a two-goal cushion. The Tar Heels were aggressive on offense the entire period, outshooting the Blue Devils 10-3.
Additionally, the North Carolina defense was superb in the third, stopping two Duke penalty corners in the period to prevent them from tying the game back up.
With how good the Tar Heel defense was throughout the second half, the penalty stroke from Matson to go up 4-1 would be the dagger for Duke.
Why does it matter?
Not only is this a win against their rivals, but they improve to 2-1 in ACC play as they work towards getting the top seed in the conference.
The second half surge showed that this team has resilience when suffering an early deficit. With the offense starting to get better looks as the game progressed, the backline tightened up to prevent Duke from gaining any sort of offensive momentum.
UNC’s defense kept them in the game to allow Matson and company to convert on their chances leading to their four goals, showing how potent this team can be when firing on all cylinders.
When do they play next?
UNC will be back at Karen Shelton Stadium this Sunday to face top-ten ranked Liberty at 3 p.m.
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