After a close 3-2 overtime win over Wake Forest in the quarterfinals, the No. 3 UNC field hockey team (12-6, 4-2) defeated No. 2 Syracuse (13-5, 4-2) 4-1 on Friday to advance to the ACC Championship.
Syracuse hosted the ACC postseason games this season, and were facing a Tar Heel team fresh off an overtime quarterfinal game the night before. Syracuse defeated Duke 5-1 to make it to the semifinals.
To start the game, both teams' defenses came out hot and did not allow any goals in the first quarter. The UNC offense managed to get the game's first goal in the second, as senior forward Erin Matson scored the first goal of the game to put the Tar Heels on the board at the 15:52 mark.
After that first goal, Matson was on a roll. She scored another two goals before the quarter came to an end. Her third goal, which came with 26:59 on the clock, was assisted by fellow senior forward Hannah Griggs. The third quarter once again saw little action, with a strong defensive effort by both teams that left the score at 3-0 entering the final quarter of the game.
The fourth period started with little action as well, looking as though it may result in the same fate as the first and third. This persisted until the 51-minute mark, when Griggs had a goal of her own to advance the North Carolina lead to 4-0. Her goal was assisted by Matson.
Syracuse attempted to retaliate in the final minutes of the game, but saw little success. They had one goal at 57:48 point that kept the game from being a shutout, but failed to score again, making the final score 4-1 in a Tar Heel win.
Who stood out?
Matson and Griggs demonstrated their leadership roles on the UNC team in their performance Friday. Matson gave North Carolina the lead with her second quarter goal, and went on to score two more for a total of three of the Tar Heels’ four goals. Matson also assisted the other goal, made by Griggs. Griggs had an assist on one of Matson’s goals as well. The two senior forwards were essential to UNC’s win in the semifinals.
When was it decided?
Once the Tar Heel offense got started, it didn’t stop. After Matson's first goal in the second period, the team gained momentum that carried it to a 4-1 win. The Orange failed to keep up offensively and defensively, and brief attempts at offensive success towards the end of the match were not enough to match UNC’s impressive feats throughout the game.
Why does it matter?
North Carolina has won the ACC Championship for four consecutive years, and have gone on to become NCAA Champions the past three years. However, the UNC team has struggled to meet its standard this year, with an 11-6 record coming into today’s game against the Orange as compared to a 19-1 total record in the 2020 season. The Tar Heels’ win against Syracuse proves that despite their record, they’re still a top ACC team.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will compete for the ACC Championship title against No. 5 Virginia Sunday at noon.
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