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Monday December 5th

No. 1 UNC field hockey looks to remain unbeaten against Boston College on Friday

UNC first-year midfielder Ryleigh Heck (12) reaches for the ball during the Tar Heels' 1-0 victory against Wake Forest on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, at Karen Shelton Stadium.
Buy Photos UNC first-year midfielder Ryleigh Heck (12) reaches for the ball during the Tar Heels' 1-0 victory against Wake Forest on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, at Karen Shelton Stadium.

Boasting a 9-0 record  — including six wins over current top-25 teams — and the No. 1 ranking in the country, the North Carolina field hockey team is back in familiar territory under head coach Karen Shelton.

On Friday, the Tar Heels will travel to Boston to take on No. 17 Boston College in their second of three away games.  The last time these two teams met was in the 2021 season when UNC cruised to a 6-1 victory in Chapel Hill. 

So far this season, the Eagles have beaten Virginia and Duke, who are currently ranked No. 5 and No. 24 respectively. However, the Eagles are on a two-game skid after a loss to No. 14 Syracuse and a 4-3 overtime loss to now-No. 15 UAlbany on Sunday. After these two losses, Boston College sits at 5-6 overall and 2-1 in the ACC, but despite its losing record, is still in the top 25. 

The Tar Heels are coming off wins against No. 19 Wake Forest and No. 23 Liberty, and are looking to remain unbeaten at 10-0.  

Boston College is led by junior midfielder Peyton Hale and senior forward Margo Carlin. Carlin averages 2.55 shots per game, which ranks ninth in the ACC, but has only two goals on the season. Hale leads the Eagles with five goals and poses as a scoring threat to a stout UNC defense.

The Tar Heels' defense has allowed just nine goals in as many games – the fewest by any ACC team this season. This includes five straight shutouts before allowing three goals in a 6-3 win against Liberty on Sunday. Prior to that matchup, the last time North Carolina gave up multiple goals in a game was on Sept. 2 against Princeton. 

On the other hand, the Eagles have given up 26 goals this season and average 2.36 goals against per game, ranking the worst in the ACC. Despite this, Boston College held Duke scoreless and only allowed one goal against Virginia. 

Goalkeepers Emily Gillespie and Carine Van Wiechen have split minutes in goal this season for the Eagles. However, Gillespie has been the only one to play in ACC matchups. In those games, she has allowed four goals and made nine saves. 

In Van Wiechen’s time backing up the Eagles' defense, which is led by graduate Sarah Johnson, she has allowed 15 goals – including five against No. 2 Northwestern. Her lone clean sheet came against Providence College in the first game of the season, and she has let in multiple goals in all but one game since. 

UNC’s high-powered offense, which has scored 40 goals already with an average of 4.44 per game, will look to take advantage of the Boston College defense. Senior forward Erin Matson and the tandem of first-years Ryleigh Heck and Ashley Sessa have tallied 27 goal involvements this season.

Despite UNC’s offensive production this year, penalty corners continue to be an area in which the Tar Heels struggle. Boston College has also had difficulty earning penalty corners. The Tar Heels have earned just 57, while the Eagles have earned 59, ranking UNC fifth in the ACC and the Eagles just one spot higher at fourth. 

When the two teams face off on Friday, UNC will look to improve in this area as its high-powered offense will try to leave Boston with another top-25 win on its resume and remain unbeaten.

@mdmaynard74

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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