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The Daily Tar Heel

No. 1 UNC field hockey drops to No. 10 Liberty in 2-1 double-overtime loss

UNC senior midfielder Kiersten Thomassey (35) chases 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. 1 North Carolina field hockey team (9-2, 3-0 ACC) will exit the win column after a 2-1 double overtime loss against No. 10 Liberty (12-1, 4-0 Big East). 

The Tar Heels failed to capitalize on 12 penalty corner opportunities, including five across the two overtime periods.

“Either the insert was a little off, the rolling was a little too far, or the hit was off target,” head coach Erin Matson said. “You know, it's just executing your own job in terms of corners. And we struggled to do that today and Liberty's defense was top notch.”

Within the first five minutes of the match, the ball was seen in and out of the teams’ respective territories. After eventually gathering two penalty corners each, UNC prevailed with a tight chipped goal from senior midfielder Kiersten Thomassey. Toward the end of the first quarter, the Tar Heels gained primary possession of the ball, holding Liberty to zero shots.

Though the start of the first and second quarter were similar regarding ball possession, North Carolina was able to dominate Liberty with concentrated on-field performances from defensive and midfield players, including junior back Kelly Smith and first-year midfielder Sanne Hak. However, in the last minute before halftime, Liberty back Jodie Conolly tied the match with a one shot stroke into the left corner of the cage.

UNC defensive back Kelly Smith (6) defends the Tar Heels' during the field hockey game against Liberty on Oct. 8, 2023. UNC lost to Liberty 1-2.

“As a group, we came together and were like, ‘we’re still in this, we got this’,” senior midfielder captain Katie Dixon said. “I think we focused on playing our game – we’ve worked on moving the ball a lot, working together, and playing the simple pass and I think we did that excellently in the second half.”

UNC senior midfielder/back Katie Dixon (14) prepares 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 rest of the game kept close in each sector of play from both teams but with no time left on the clock in the third quarter, Liberty received a penalty corner leading to a crucial defensive save from Smith that would demand the Tar Heels to enter the final quarter with a sharpened offense.

After Conolly’s goal to end the first half, North Carolina lost complete dominance over the ball leaving Liberty undoubtful of their abilities in keeping the Tar Heels out of their territory. The Tar Heels would go into its third overtime of the year since facing off against Princeton in early September.

The first overtime remained scoreless, causing the teams to go in their second one of the match. In the seventh minute of play in the second overtime session, Liberty junior midfielder Martu Cian would close out the game, causing North Carolina to fall short of its ninth consecutive victory of the season.

“We always say we’ll grow from a loss and we learned a lot in those last few minutes,” senior back Romea Riccardo said. “So I think we’ll probably go back to the film room, look at what we could have done better and then kind of build on that.”

The Tar Heels will hit the road looking to restart their winning streak in New York against No. 12 Syracuse at 4 p.m. on Friday, October 13th. 


@dthsports |

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