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The Daily Tar Heel

Defense leads No. 2 UNC field hockey to win at Saint Joseph’s

UNC senior back Ciana Riccardo (8) makes a pass at the field hockey game against Iowa on Aug. 27, 2023, in Karen Shelton Stadium. UNC lost 3-2 in overtime.

On Sunday, the No. 2 North Carolina field hockey team (8-1, 2-0 ACC) knocked off No. 13 Saint Joseph’s (9-3, 3-0 Atlantic 10) on the road, 4-1. Sophomore midfielder Sietske Brüning's goal with no time left to end the first half proved to be the most vital play of the game, as it lifted the Tar Heels to a 2-1 lead. 

UNC started the game with a strong defensive effort, but unraveled defensively in the final two minutes of the first quarter as the Hawks drew two penalty corners. With just 32 seconds to play in the first, St. Joseph’s senior forward Manu Ghigliotti dropped in the first goal of the game to claim a 1-0 lead.

In the second quarter, the Tar Heels had success drawing corners. After being stalled on its first corner of the second quarter, UNC quickly forced a turnover and put pressure on the Hawks as it attacked the goal aggressively, drawing a second corner.

“It’s great to see not just one player stepping up and executing what we’ve been working on, but multiple players across the field,” UNC head coach Erin Matson said.

On the corner, first-year forward Charly Bruder collected a rebound and quickly scored the Tar Heels’ first goal of the game. The goal was Bruder’s sixth of the season, the highest mark for any Tar Heel this year.

With just five seconds to go in the half, the Tar Heels drew another corner. With penalty corners, play continues until the officials call the play, even if the buzzer sounds. Triple zeros lit up the scoreboard, but that didn’t stop sophomore midfielder Sietske Brüning from scoring her first goal of the season to give UNC a 2-1 lead at the break.

“They don’t even hear the buzzer,” Matson said. “They just wait until the ball’s either out of the hash or in the back of the net, and that’s exactly what they did. They were unphased. They just had it on their mind to execute and finish.”

Matson added that the goal "definitely helped the momentum" heading into the second half. 

Early in the fourth quarter, sophomore forward Ryleigh Heck shed a triple team, spun and flipped the ball up as she was falling to the turf. The reigning ACC Freshman of the Year scored the goal while falling down to give UNC a 3-1 lead. 

Senior forward Paityn Wirth scored midway through the fourth off an assist from Bruder. Wirth became the fourth Tar Heel to score a goal on Sunday and gave the Tar Heels a 4-1 lead.

“She’s crafty,” Matson said. “Everybody in America knows that. She does things you don’t expect, and she’s very good at reading what’s in front of her. So, when the goalie came out, no doubt, she knew where the goal was.”

Ultimately, it was UNC’s defense that paved the way for the Tar Heels’ win. Following the late first-quarter goal, the Hawks were held scoreless on three shots in the second half. This was the seventh consecutive game in which the Tar Heels held their opponent to either one goal or scoreless.

“It was overall great from the defensive line,” Matson said. “And I think a strength of ours has always been the energy and the turnovers that we generate from our press as a team."

The Tar Heels will be back at Karen Shelton Stadium in Chapel Hill for a matchup with No. 12 Boston College on Friday.


@dthsports |

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