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Friday February 3rd

No. 1 UNC field hockey shuts out No. 9 Saint Josephs on Senior Night

UNC freshman forward, Ryleigh Heck (12), drives the ball towards the goal on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022 against Saint Joseph University.
Buy Photos UNC freshman forward, Ryleigh Heck (12), drives the ball towards the goal on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022 against Saint Joseph University.

On Sunday, the top-ranked UNC field hockey team (14-0, 5-0 ACC) remained unbeaten as it defeated No. 9 Saint Joseph’s (12-3, 6-0 A-10) 6-0 on Senior Day at Karen Shelton Stadium.

What happened?

The Tar Heels came out fast and aggressive on offense. Following a well-placed pass through the air by senior forward Erin Matson, first-year forward and midfielder Ryleigh Heck — the reigning NFHCA National Offensive Player of the Week — floated the ball over top of the defense for UNC’s first goal of the day.

Continuing the attack on offense, Matson scored the Tar Heels' second goal of the first quarter. 

UNC’s third and final goal of the first quarter came from sophomore forward and midfielder Kennedy Cliggett, who scored off a backward assist from Matson as she was approaching the baseline. The assist for Matson, her 58th, tied her with Joy Driscoll for the second most in school history.

To begin the second quarter, UNC chipped away at Saint Joseph’s defense, scoring after multiple shot attempts on a penalty corner as senior forward Paityn Wirth scored off an assist from sophomore midfielder Jasmina Smolenaars.

Building off a 4-0 lead at the half, the Tar Heels began the third quarter with Heck’s second goal of the day, assisted by Matson. The assist awarded Matson sole possession of second place in school history for career assists.

Saint Joseph’s nearly scored off a penalty corner in the final seconds of the third quarter but came up shy in what was its closest attempt at a goal.

UNC added a sixth and final goal at the start of the fourth quarter as Heck scored and completed her second hat trick in the last three games, scoring off another assist from Matson.

Who stood out?

Aggressive offensive play carried the Tar Heels to a dominant victory over the Hawks. A hat trick for Heck and a flurry of assists for Matson highlighted the array of successes UNC had on offense.

Despite these standouts, the entire offensive unit had a stellar game, highlighted by the shot accuracy of the Tar Heels offense in the first quarter — an eye-opening 0.750 as they punched in three of their first four shots. 

When was it decided?

The Tar Heels' offense was overwhelming from buzzer to buzzer. Establishing a 3-0 lead in the first quarter, the Tar Heel offense remained prolific moving forward and the outcome was never really in question.

Why does it matter?

Pre-game, UNC honored seniors Brooke Behan, Matson, Madison Orobono, Romea Riccardo, Steph Weber and Wirth for their final home game on Senior Day. Meredith Sholder also played in her final regular season home game, but was honored for Senior Day last year.

The game marked the final time Matson, the ACC career points leader, would take the field at Karen Shelton Stadium. The three-time national champion and four-time recipient of All-American and ACC Offensive Player of the Year was met with applause as she was honored pre-game.

The Tar Heels fell to the Hawks 3-2 last season, it was the program’s first and only loss to Saint Joseph’s. With the win Sunday, the Tar Heels avenged last season’s loss and moved to 3-1 head-to-head all-time against the Hawks.

When do they play next?

UNC will close out the regular season at No. 25 Duke on Saturday, Oct. 29, before heading back to Duke University for the ACC Tournament where the Tar Heels have already clinched the top seed.

@BenMcC33

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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