The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday December 7th

No. 1 UNC field hockey beats Delaware 5-1 in opening round of NCAA Tournament

Sophomore forward Kennedy Cliggett (36) clashes sticks with a UPenn player as she fights for the ball. UNC beat UPenn at home 4-0 on Sunday, Sept. 4, 2022.
Buy Photos Sophomore forward Kennedy Cliggett (36) clashes sticks with a UPenn player as she fights for the ball. UNC beat UPenn at home 4-0 on Sunday, Sept. 4, 2022.

Thanks to five consecutive goals, the No. 1 North Carolina field hockey team eliminated Delaware by picking up a 5-1 win in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

What happened?

Delaware drew a corner and scored on the Tar Heels in the first 11 seconds of game play. UNC answered with a goal by sophomore forward Kennedy Cliggett. The Tar Heels then rallied to draw six straight penalty corners in four minutes, and Cliggett converted the final shot for another score. 

A classic assist by senior forward Erin Matson to first-year forward Ryleigh Heck opened up the scoring in the second period, which helped the Tar Heels build a 3-1 advantage. With North Carolina gaining momentum, junior midfielder Kiersten Thomassey crossed the ball inside the circle, which was touched by first-year forward Ashley Sessa into the net for the Tar Heels’ fourth goal of the afternoon. 

With the first half coming to a close, a backhanded shot by sophomore midfielder Lisa Slinkert capped off UNC’s opening run, and the team tied its season high for most goals scored in a half with five.

UNC scrapped its way through the third and fourth quarters, earning five more penalty corners but capitalizing on none of them. Although the offense was stagnant, the defense remained solid as the team held its four-goal lead to come away with the convincing victory.

Who stood out? 

Coming off the bench, Cliggett was the spark that kicked off UNC’s offensive run in the first quarter, scoring her sixth and seventh goals of the season.

Heck shot the ball four times and scored once, while Matson tallied seven shots on the afternoon.

When was it decided?

It was the only the second time all season that UNC hadn’t scored the first goal of the game, but playing from behind unleashed an Tar Heel offensive onslaught that the Blue Hens just could not stifle. 

Scoring five straight goals to respond to Delaware’s early lead, UNC was in a comfortable position entering the break and the team coasted to the win.

Why does it matter?

The Tar Heels posted a season-high 28 shots against the Blue Hens. This victory improves North Carolina’s perfect record to 18-0, advancing the team to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. 

Continuing the program’s quest for its fourth national championship in five years, head coach Karen Shelton is looking to earn her 10th title at the helm of the team. The Tar Heels will host the second round of the tournament on Sunday, and if they advance, they will travel to Connecticut for the semifinals.

When do they play next?

UNC will play either Wake Forest or Saint Joseph’s on Sunday in Karen Shelton Stadium in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The match will begin at noon.

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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