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No. 1 UNC field hockey narrowly escapes No. 19 Boston College, 4-3, in Newton

UNC first-year forward Ashley Sessa (3) protects the ball during the Tar Heels' 1-0 victory against Wake Forest on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, at Karen Shelton Stadium.

The No. 1 UNC field hockey team (10-0, 3-0 ACC) narrowly escaped the No. 19 Boston College Eagles (5-7, 2-2 ACC), 4-3, in Newton, Mass. First-years Ashley Sessa and Ryleigh Heck and sophomore midfielder Jasmina Smolenaars all earned first-half goals and senior forward Erin Matson closed out the game in the fourth quarter.

What happened?

UNC started to apply the offensive pressure early, putting up three shots to Boston College’s zero in the opening quarter. 

After inserting the ball on UNC‘s first penalty corner of the game, Sessa quickly gave the Tar Heels a 1-0 lead with her seventh goal of the season. This came just over nine minutes into the game with a missile into the top-right corner of the goal.

North Carolina went up 3-0 in the second quarter thanks to two more goals off of UNC penalty corners. 

In the 18th minute, Smolenaars fired off a long shot. Boston College first-year goalkeeper Carine Van Wiechen initially tipped the ball, but it still found the back of the net for Smolenaars’ third goal of the season and a 2-0 UNC lead.

Smolenaars earned an assist on North Carolina’s next goal, which came from Heck following a penalty corner insert from sophomore midfielder Lisa Slinkert in the 25th minute.

As the clock ticked down in the opening half, the Eagles earned a penalty corner of their own after a few saves from first-year Kylie Walbert in goal. On the penalty corner, Walbert made another diving save to keep the score at 3-0 entering halftime.

In the second half, the Eagles clawed back into the game thanks to two goals from junior forward Kara Heck, the older sister of UNC’s Ryleigh Heck. Her spinning shot at the beginning of the third quarter and second goal of the game in the fourth quarter brought Boston College within one goal of the Tar Heels at 3-2. 

Matson responded to put UNC back up 4-2 as she inserted a loose ball in the shooting circle into the goal. Despite a late penalty stroke from the Eagles to make the game 4-3, North Carolina came away with the win.

Who stood out? 

Sessa stood out immediately for the Tar Heels, as she was able to secure UNC’s first goal of the game off of an early penalty corner. Penalty corners have been a point of emphasis for North Carolina, and UNC’s evasive passing found Sessa posted up just left of the goal, where she was able to find an opening to get her shot off. 

On the defensive end, Walbert stood out for her poise in the goal. In one sequence late in the second quarter, the rookie made three huge saves to keep the momentum firmly with the Tar Heels entering halftime.

When was it decided?

After the opening 30 minutes, the momentum was firmly in the grasp of the Tar Heel, who had a 3-0 lead heading into halftime.

However, after two late goals from the Eagles, a Boston College upset seemed more likely. Matson put these worries to rest with her goal in the 53rd minute to deliver UNC a 2-goal lead heading into the game's final stretch.

Why does it matter?

Today’s 4-goal showing over the Eagles continues UNC’s offensive dominance through this mid-season stretch. In a 6-3 win over Liberty on Sunday, UNC rolled past the nation’s top-ranked offense. 

Moreover, it is especially notable that UNC’s first three goals came off of penalty corners, an aspect of North Carolina’s game that has struggled so far this season in comparison to the rest of the offense.

When do they play next?

UNC will take on Connecticut at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 9.

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@dthsports |

Shelby Swanson

Shelby Swanson is the 2023-24 sports editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as an assistant sports editor and senior writer. Shelby is a junior pursuing a double major in media and journalism and Hispanic literatures and cultures.