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The Daily Tar Heel

No. 2 UNC field hockey suffers first ACC loss to No. 7 UVA

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UNC sophomore forward Ryleigh Heck (12) looks to pass the ball during the field hockey game against Liberty at Karen Shelton Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023. UNC fell to Liberty 1-2.

The No. 2 North Carolina field hockey team (11-3, 4-1 ACC) fell 3-2 to the No. 7 Virginia Cavaliers (10-5, 3-3 ACC) on Friday in Charlottesville.  

The Cavaliers have proved to be a tough test for high-ranked conference foes. Last Sunday, Virginia defeated   then-ranked No. 2 Duke 2-1 in double overtime, ending the Blue Devils’ 11-game win streak. With Friday’s win, UVA adds yet another top-five win to its resume and ends UNC’s 12-game win streak in the series between the two teams.  

With the ball staying mostly in the midfield, both teams struggled to get an effective shot on goal until the last few seconds of play in the first quarter. UNC drew a penalty corner with 11 seconds remaining, but the wind-up shot by first-year forward Charly Bruder was blocked. 

Two minutes into the second quarter, sophomore forward Ryleigh Heck finally drew first blood. The ACC’s Co-Offensive Player of the Week ran the ball adjacent to the baseline, broke past the Virginia defenders and flicked the ball over UVA junior goalkeeper Tyler Kennedy into the right corner of the cage, putting the Tar Heels up, 1-0. 

After drawing three consecutive penalty corners in the final two minutes of the second quarter, North Carolina finally found the back of the cage again, thanks to Heck. In the 29th minute, sophomore midfielder Sietske Brüning took a shot at the top of the circle, only for it to be blocked. Heck grabbed the rebound, quickly launching it into the upper-corner of the goal and increasing the UNC lead to 2-0.  

“[Heck is] someone that everybody looks to, and we want the ball on her stick,” head coach Erin Matson said. “She comes up in big moments, and she’s just great for us. She’s threatening.” 

But an unsalvageable third quarter with mistakes in the backfield cost UNC its early lead and the win. 

Virginia grabbed its first goal of the game in the 33rd minute. Intercepting a pass near the baseline of UNC territory, UVA junior forward Taryn Tkachuk knocked the ball behind her back to junior midfielder Noa Boterman in the center of the circle, who easily tapped it into the cage. 

Drawing a penalty corner two minutes later, the Cavaliers found the back of the cage again with a well-executed shot by junior back Emily Field, tying the score 2-2. Then, in its third penalty corner opportunity of the second half, sophomore midfielder Lauren Kenah's shot was redirected by Tkachuk to grab the lead for UVA, bringing the score to 3-2. 

“The third quarter won the game for them,” Matson said. “We talked about it in the huddle just now: every game is a lesson, whether it’s a win or a loss. Today it shows that we can’t take our foot off the gas for even one quarter because other teams capitalize.” 

North Carolina struggled to build any offensive momentum in the fourth quarter, so the team relieved graduate goalkeeper Maddie Kahn of her post to add another player on the field in the 54th minute. But the Tar Heels’ only shot on goal in the remaining regulation time was blocked, costing the team its first conference loss of the season. 

North Carolina is back in action next Friday at 6 p.m. against No. 3 Duke for its final regular season match of the season. 

@carolinewills03

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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