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The Daily Tar Heel

No. 2 UNC field hockey uses two-minute trick to earn wins over WFU and App State

092423_richards_SPORTS_FHOCKEY-vs-App--491.jpg
UNC freshman midfielder/forward Sanne Hak (5) makes a crucial pass in the Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023 game against App State. UNC won with a score of 6-1.

Every time the No. 2 North Carolina field hockey team puts the ball in the back of the cage, head coach Erin Matson said it's a tradition to put up two fingers. 

Two fingers signify the two minutes following a goal, which Matson said are the most dangerous moments in any game.

Those two minutes can go one of two ways:

In the first scenario, the Tar Heels get complacent. The team is swept up by the excitement of scoring, and opponents take advantage.

In the second scenario — the preferred one — UNC capitalizes off of offensive momentum to put away another goal.

In UNC's 3-0 shut-out victory over No. 17 Wake Forest on Friday, as well as the team's dominant 6-1 win against Appalachian State on Sunday, the Tar Heels chose the second scenario — repeatedly taking advantage of those two precious minutes to seal both games in their favor.  

"We've been focusing a lot on scoring goals. So it's good for our confidence that it finally paid off," forward Sanne Hak said of UNC's six-goal first half against the Mountaineers. 

Hak scored the team's first goal of the day off a penalty stroke, marking the first-year's first-ever goal in a North Carolina uniform.

This initiated the Tar Heels' offensive momentum and started the ticking of Matson's imaginary two-minute timer.

In the following two minutes, UNC's offense refused to let the ball out of App State territory, scoring two more goals in the eighth and ninth minutes, thanks to Ryleigh Heck and Kiersten Thomassey. This domination occurred over the entire course of the game, as UNC took 28 total shots while holding its in-state foe to just two shots.

Against the Demon Deacons on Friday, the two-minute scheme allowed North Carolina to close out the game. The Tar Heels didn’t even use the full two minutes — scoring their final two goals just 19 seconds apart.

With less than two minutes to play, UNC junior midfielder Jasmina Smolenaars scored off a penalty corner to give the Tar Heels a 2-0 lead. Then, the North Carolina offense quickly charged back into Wake Forest territory. Hak hit a pass into the air behind her back, allowing graduate midfielder Pleun Lammers to tap the ball over the goalie and put North Carolina up, 3-0.

Following the third Tar Heel goal, the imaginary two-minute timer reset. But this time, scenario one played out, and the Demon Deacons surged forward.

Weaving past several UNC defenders, Wake Forest's Grace Delmotte recorded an immediate shot on goal. However, graduate goalkeeper Maddie Kahn — who Matson calls the "rock" in the backfield — was ready. The goalkeeper shot out her leg to kick the shot away, and from there, Wake Forest didn’t get into the circle for the remaining time in regulation.

“The energy is always so high right after you score a goal, so it's really easy to get caught on your heels if you're not careful,” senior forward Paityn Wirth said. “We always do the two minutes just to emphasize, ‘Let's focus and make sure we're not just blowing it off.’”

As the team approaches a four-game stretch against top-15 opponents, North Carolina will need to hold on to its offensive momentum to continue to win games and prevent opponents from closing deficits. 

All it takes is two minutes. 

@carolinewills03

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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