The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday February 8th

UNC field hockey team exits NCAA Tournament with 2-0 first round loss to Northwestern

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

The North Carolina field hockey team (13-7, 4-2 ACC) fell to Northwestern (15-5, 5-3 Big Ten), 2-0, in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Friday afternoon in Iowa City, Iowa, officially ending the team’s season and hopes at a four-peat of national championships.

What happened?

North Carolina senior forward Erin Matson was the first player on either team to attempt a shot, but it was saved by Northwestern goalkeeper Annabel Skubisz. Halfway through the first period, Northwestern midfielder Lauren Wadas’ shot missed wide, and the uneventful first period ended with both teams attempting only one shot.

The Wildcats began to play more aggressive on offense in the second quarter, as forward Bente Baekers attempted a shot within the first two minutes, leading to two penalty corners for Northwestern. The corners gave Bakers another promising look, but the shot missed high.

UNC only had one opportunity to score in the second quarter — when junior back Madison Orobono shot the ball as the first half ended — but it was saved by Skubisz.

The Wildcats continued their offensive pressure to open up the second half, attempting three shots within the first three minutes. In the 36th minute, sophomore back Ciana Riccardo had a chance to score, but the shot missed wide. Two minutes later, the Wildcats attempted another shot, but it was saved by first-year goalkeeper Abigail Taylor. By the end of the period, Northwestern outshot UNC 4-2 in the third quarter.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats scored the first goal. After Taylor saved a Northwestern shot, the Wildcats infiltrated the Tar Heel defense, with a shot from forward Clara Roth bouncing off the crossbar. Roth’s missed shot set up an open look for midfielder Ana Medina Garcia, who sent the ball into the back of the net moments later, putting the Wildcats up 1-0.

With just under six minutes left to play, a desperate North Carolina team substituted Taylor out, leaving the Tar Heels with no goalkeeper in hopes of tying the score. Minutes later, Northwestern  midfielder Maddie Zimmer put the game away with a goal.

Who stood out? 

Matson led the team with two shots, one on goal. Additionally, first-year Kennedy Cliggett had one shot on goal in just 18 minutes of play.

Northwestern’s Baekers and Lauren Wadas led the Wildcat offensive push, combining for over half of Northwestern’s 13 shots, but not finding the back of the net. Roth and Medina Garcia also had two shots each.

The Northwestern defense shined, as this was only UNC’s third time being shut out this season. In a similar vein, the Wildcats held the Tar Heels to just six shots — before the teams met, North Carolina averaged almost 16 shots per game.

When was it decided?

After Northwestern struck with 12 minutes left to play, the Tar Heels only managed to get one shot off, which was saved by Skubisz. 

Eleven seconds later, Zimmer’s goal sealed the game. With just over two minutes left, Cliggett attempted a shot, but it was saved yet again by Skubisz. The two-goal lead late in the fourth quarter proved too large of a deficit for the Tar Heels to overcome.

Why does it matter?

The Tar Heels have been the defending NCAA champions for the past three seasons, and have not seen a first round exit since 2008, when they fell to Michigan State.

This loss concludes an underperforming season for the Tar Heels, who have been the ACC tournament champions for the past five seasons. Additionally, North Carolina has not won less than 14 games since 2006, when they went 13-9.

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels have been eliminated from the NCAA tournament, thus ending their 2021-2022 season.

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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