The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday February 5th

No. 1 UNC field hockey earns 2-0 win over Duke to close out undefeated regular season

UNC senior Erin Matson (1) goes for a hard drive during a field hockey game against Duke on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, at Jack Katz Stadium in Durham, N.C.
Buy Photos UNC senior Erin Matson (1) goes for a hard drive during a field hockey game against Duke on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, at Jack Katz Stadium in Durham, N.C.

After Kennedy Cliggett netted North Carolina’s second goal against Duke in the game's , the sophomore forward looked to her coach as she ran back to the center circle.

Head coach Karen Shelton flashed the signal.

With the approval of her mentor, Cliggett cranked out the Griddy, dancing her way around the turf while her teammates cheered on in UNC’s 2-0 win over the Blue Devils.

“Before every game, me and coach have a celebration ritual — we have to Griddy together,” Cliggett said. "During the whole week of practice, I was like, ‘If I score at Duke I’m definitely Griddying.’”

With the relaxed vibes seen late in the second period from the Tar Heels, some may assume North Carolina had dominated play throughout the game. Rather, it was Duke who came out punching first.

After denying UNC’s first possession, the Blue Devils worked their way down the outskirts of the pitch and drew the afternoon’s first penalty corner. The dominant assertion early on seemed unlikely considering Duke’s winless record in conference play, but Shelton was not surprised. 

“We told them to expect this,” she said. We were (Duke’s) last shot and a way to redeem their season. We knew we were an opportunity for them.”

The Blue Devils’ ensuing shot was clubbed away by sophomore goalkeeper Abigail Taylor, shifting the momentum in favor of the Tar Heels.

Over the next 13 minutes, North Carolina controlled possession inside Duke's territory, putting pressure on the Blue Devils’ defense. After failing to convert its first two penalty corner attempts, North Carolina broke through on its third try as senior forward Erin Matson chopped the ball into the bottom left corner of the cage.

“The first goal is always the biggest, especially when the other team comes out firing,” Matson said. “At the same time when we go up one to nothing, we say to ourselves it’s 0-0 because the game’s not over.”

The once loud and rambunctious Blue Devil faithful turned quiet as the chants of “Tar Heels” filled Jack Katz Stadium.

North Carolina continued its dominant play into the second quarter. After another prolonged possession near Duke’s cage, Matson dribbled a no-look pass to Cliggett, whose one-timer gave UNC a two-goal advantage. 

“I wouldn’t be able to (score) without all my teammates,” Cliggett said. “Erin set me up a beautiful ball on the baseline.”

Despite Cliggett’s goal marking the final scoring play for the Tar Heels, Shelton said she was more impressed with her team’s performance and maturity in the latter frames, as Duke was held to zero shots in the final quarter of play. The clean sheet marked the eighth time the Tar Heels had shut out an opponent this season and helped Matson complete a clean sweep over Duke in her storied career.

When the final buzzer sounded, the Tar Heels huddled in its defending half to celebrate, showing the same emotion seen earlier when Cliggett displayed her new Griddy. 

And though Shelton’s dance moves aren’t quite up to the standard of those she coaches, the Tar Heels’ ability to harp on the fun times in sport has built a strong bond for North Carolina as it enters postseason play.

“This season we’re so close — we’re having a lot of fun,” Matson said. “We’ve talked about it for multiple games about (Cliggett) scoring and having to Griddy… she and Coach go at it. I think Coach has been practicing (the Griddy) a little bit, but she’s got a little ways to go.”

@evanr0gers

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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