The No. 3 North Carolina field hockey team (11-2, 4-0 ACC) knocked off No. 19 Albany (9-5, 5-1 AE) on Sunday, 4-3, leaving its weekend in New York 2-0.
In a first quarter characterized by a defensive showdown, Albany outnumbered North Carolina’s shots on goal, 5-0, and failed to capitalize on any of its four penalty corners, thanks to the talents of veteran goalkeeper Maddie Kahn in goal for the Tar Heels.
“We like to try to make Maddie's job easy by not allowing too many outcomes but when it's her job to step up," head coach Erin Matson said, "She’s able to help the situation.”
Less than a minute into the second period, North Carolina seemed to find an offensive rhythm. First-year forward Sanne Hak found the back of the net, taking advantage of a penalty shot opportunity. Looking to simulate the same energy, Albany maximized its field position with a lucky flick over Kahn to tie up the game 1-1. Shouts of “Don’t foul, don’t foul” could be heard along the Tar Heels’ sideline as Albany midfielder Blanca Orsola converted the team’s a score for the Great Danes, putting Albany up, 2-1, heading into halftime.
North Carolina came out in the second half with aggression.
Sophomore forward Ryleigh Heck took a shot on goal which came up short, giving senior forward Paityn Wirth the rebound to tie the game up at 2-2. Minutes later, two blocked Albany shots gave the Tar Heels the ball back. Hak crossed to the top of the circle, giving senior midfielder Kiersten Thomassey a direct shot on goal to give UNC the 3-2 advantage. Fighting back, the Great Danes earned a penalty corner and midfielder Alison Smisdom handed Albany its third goal, less than 90 seconds after the Tar Heels pulled ahead.
With a 3-3 tie, Heck controlled possession in the final minutes of play and fired off a shot that bounced over Albany goalie Lara Behn. Her goal, off an assist from sophomore back Sietske Brüning, put the Tar Heels up one to record a 4-3 victory.
“Having multiple threats across the field, whether it's side mids, finishing forwards, finishing defenders, in penalty corner situations, putting the ball away, it's been really important for us and it will continue to be but it also makes us more unpredictable,” Matson said.
Albany outshot North Carolina, 16-12, with a 10-9 advantage in shots on goal. Despite this stat, North Carolina fought to the end to put another mark in the win column.