Suffocating corners and shot opportunities, the No. 2 UNC field hockey team (7-0, 1-0 ACC) posted its fourth straight shutout win, beating No. 4 Louisville (6-1, 0-1 ACC) 3-0.
The Tar Heels showcased their scrappy, fast-paced style of field hockey on the AstroTurf in Trager Stadium early in the contest. About halfway through the first period, first-year forward and midfielder Ashley Sessa made a statement by dribbling the ball through three defenders in the circle and shooting it to the right-back post. Despite senior forward Erin Matson getting pulled two minutes on a green card, UNC’s offense dominated in the first, outshooting the Cardinals, 4-0.
With about eight minutes remaining in the second, Louisville was awarded a penalty corner, but UNC challenged the call and it was overturned. Tallying one more shot by Sessa, North Carolina continued to press into Louisville’s defensive territory. By halftime, the Cardinals put up no shots, had two saves and trailed the Tar Heels, 1-0.
Both teams began penetrating each others’ circles in the third period and trading corners to no avail. In the 39th minute of play, UNC sophomore forward and midfielder Kennedy Cliggett shot the ball into the pads of Louisville goalkeeper Sasha Elliott, who deflected the ball. Spotting the ball loose, sophomore midfielder Lisa Slinkert tapped it into the goal to bring the score 2-0. First-year goalkeeper Kylie Walbert stood strong against Louisville’s first shot of the day, maintaining the UNC shutout.
North Carolina pulled further ahead early in the fourth period, off a left baseline shot from senior midfielder Paityn Wirth. Despite their 3-0 lead, the Tar Heels gave up six penalty corners and drew only one themselves. With each Louisville-earned corner, though, UNC’s defensive line did not allow even one shot on goal. Holding onto their lead, the Tar Heels ran out the clock, claiming a 3-0 victory — their fourth straight shutout of the season.
Who stood out?
Sessa continued to define herself as a clear offensive presence on UNC’s roster by racking up five shots, four shots on goal and her sixth goal as a Tar Heel.
Slinkert followed suit with her fourth goal of the season and Wirth put up her first on the campaign.
When was it decided?
With both teams tied for the top records in the ACC and playing similar styles of field hockey, this game was predicted to be a tighter matchup than the score showed. However, when the Tar Heels began simultaneously gaining offensive momentum whilst shutting down just about every scoring opportunity the Cardinals mustered, it was clear that the Tar Heels would come out on top.
Why does it matter?
Beginning the match as the only two remaining ACC teams with perfect 6-0 records, this game was heavily anticipated as each teams’ conference opener. UNC and Louisville previously shared the turf two weeks prior in Chapel Hill, both facing Princeton and Penn in the ACC-Ivy League Challenge. In 2021, the Tar Heels lost in Karen Shelton Stadium in a hard-fought overtime battle against the Cardinals. With something to prove against Lousiville, the Tar Heels were relentless in their press Friday and sealed their perfect 7-0 record and ACC dominance.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will host the Wake Forest Demon Deacons on Friday at 4 p.m for Carolina Kids Club Day.
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