In the semifinals of the ACC Championship, the North Carolina field hockey team picked up a narrow 2-1 win over Syracuse to advance to the final on Friday.
Just two minutes into game play, the Orange earned the first penalty corner of the afternoon. Syracuse’s initial shot was saved by first-year goalkeeper Kylie Walbert, which was popped out and shot up again and blocked by the stick of sophomore midfielder Jasmina Smolenaars. UNC drew two more penalty corners in the quarter, registering shots from Smolenaars and senior forward Erin Matson, but these attempts were unsuccessful.
North Carolina began the scoreless second quarter with a drive and shot on goal by Matson, as well as two more corners. First year Sietske Brüning rocketed the first penalty corner shot wide, and the second corner, inserted by senior forward Paityn Wirth, was passed around the perimeter of the circle before Wirth shot it again and missed.
Facing pressure from the Orange offense, UNC’s back line, led by senior back Romea Riccardo, cleared balls from crucial circle penetrations to keep the Orange from seizing scoring opportunities and both teams entered the break scoreless.
The Tar Heels earned their first corner of the second half early into the third quarter. With an insert by first-year forward Ashley Sessa and touches by Matson, North Carolina earned a penalty stroke. One-on-one with the Syracuse goalkeeper, Matson blew the ball to the left side of the cage to open up the scoring.
In the fourth quarter, UNC drew its sixth corner of the afternoon. The ball was stick-stopped by Riccardo, shot by Brüning to the center of the cage, then deflected off the stick of first-year forward Ryleigh Heck which soared over the goalkeeper’s head to extend the lead.
The Orange responded about four minutes later, crossing the ball from the left side of the circle and a bat-in by Syracuse forward Eefke van den Nieuwenhof. Though UNC challenged the goal, the call was upheld, leaving the score at 2-1 with eight minutes to play. The Orange kept fighting until the end of regulation and notched a shot in the final 30 seconds of game, but the score stood and UNC held onto the win.