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Sisters Ryleigh and Kara Heck go head-to-head in UNC field hockey's win over Boston College

UNC sophomore forward Ryleigh Heck (12) starts the fourth period of the game against Boston College on Oct. 6, 2023, at Karen Shelton Stadium. Pictured to her right is her sister, BC senior forward Kara Heck (1). No. 1 UNC beat No. 11 Boston College 3-1.

UNC sophomore Ryleigh Heck is no stranger to competition with her older sister, Kara. 

Ryleigh said Kara, now a senior on the Boston College field hockey team, was always the "queen." To back up her point, Ryleigh recounted a specific instance from their elementary school days when Kara hit a reverse chip into the air, smacking the ball straight into the corner of Ryleigh's eye and splitting the skin open. 

Tears were shed, Kara shouted a defensive “I didn’t do anything wrong," and the usual sisterly-bickering followed. 

Ryleigh said moments like this energized her competitiveness as a kid — something she still taps into every time North Carolina and Boston College meet and both Heck sisters face off. 

“It’s tension on the field,” Ryleigh said. “We love each other, but we just want [Boston College] to do the worst, in the nicest way possible.”

On Friday, in the latest installment of the Heck v. Heck saga, the No. 1 Tar Heels routed the No. 11 Eagles in a 3-1 victory. As one of the team’s key offensive pieces, Ryleigh led the Tar Heels with 5 shots — 3 more than her older sister — thanks to her aggressive positioning. 

Their father, Roy Heck, said Ryleigh and Kara have always been very different. Ryleigh is more skilled offensively, but Kara can play at any position. Growing up in New Jersey, Ryleigh hung out with a large group of friends, while Kara stuck to a tight-knit group of three or four.

Field hockey was what they did together. Well, until college. 

Now, as conference foes, they meet every year on the turf as competitors. 

It's as different for the sisters as it is for Roy, who opted not to wear Boston College or UNC gear on Friday. Roy said he doesn’t necessarily dread these matchups — but it does leave him feeling “different” than usual. 

“I don’t really know who to root for,” he said.

Last season, in an ultimate 4-3 UNC victory, the Tar Heels led the Eagles 3-0 at halftime. Ryleigh put up the third goal for her team, but Kara charged into action with two back-to-back goals in the second half to decrease the deficit, 3-2. Although UNC scraped by, Ryleigh said the memory of her sister scoring more goals motivated her going into Friday’s match and stirred up those familiar competitive feelings. 

Neither Heck sister managed to find the back of the cage on Friday, but both led their respective teams in shots. 

Head coach Erin Matson said that even when Ryleigh doesn’t score, she's still a playmaker. 

I think when she's on the ball, she's a threat,” Matson said. “Even when she's off [the ball], teams are so worried about her that sometimes they're a little lax with other girls, and it gives them maybe a second or a foot — all that you need [to score].”

After the buzzer sounded and handshakes were shared between the two teams, the Heck sisters met on the sideline for a supportive hug.

Without Kara, Ryleigh said she wouldn’t be the player she is today. 

“Mentally and physically, she’s a beast,” she said. “She’s strong. She showed me how to do that, too. I’ve definitely looked up to her for the longest time.”


@dthsports |

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