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The Daily Tar Heel

No. 1 UNC field hockey defeats William & Mary, 6-1, in first round of NCAA Tournament

UNC senior midfielder/back Katie Dixon (14) during the first-round game of the NCAA field hockey championship against William & Mary at the Karen Shelton Stadium on Friday, Nov. 10, 2023. The Tar Heels won 6-1.

The No. 1 North Carolina field hockey team defeated William & Mary, 6-1, in the first round of the NCAA Field Hockey Championship. 

The Tar Heels recognized that no competition in the tournament will be easy, so they have practiced as if every scrimmage was against a top opponent. This strategy, nonetheless, seemed to execute seamlessly. 

“When the tournament time comes around, we know what we have to do,” senior forward Paityn Wirth said. “We all have the same goal, so it's just to go out there every day and prepare for the next game and play against the biggest one.”

The Tribe placed intense defensive pressure on the Tar Heels during the first five minutes of the matchup. An unsuccessful corner and a dangerous hit summarized the first quarter for the Tar Heels, as none of their nine shots found the cage. However, UNC held William & Mary to zero shots and the first frame ended scoreless for both teams.

The second period, however, started with a bang for the Tar Heels. First-year forward Charly Bruder broke the scoreless curse with a high shot from the top of the crease assisted by graduate midfielder Pleun Lammers. UNC maintained their offensive pressure and earned four penalty corners in eight minutes. The first three were unsuccessful, but senior midfielder Katie Dixon found the back of the cage on the fourth attempt with just under two minutes remaining in the first half. Dixon deflected a shot from junior midfielder Jasmina Smolenaars and cruised the ball past the right side of the goalie. The Tar Heels went into halftime with a 2-0 advantage over the Tribe and a 20-0 shot differential.

“That corner we’ve been practicing a lot,” Dixon said. “Jasmina has done a great job in just sending that ball across. My job is just to get the stick on the ball and get it in the goal.”

The third quarter was more of the same- offensive intensity and North Carolina penalty corners. The second corner came just four minutes into the quarter, and it resulted in a 3-0 UNC lead. Wirth found the empty left side of the goal off of a shot deflection. The Tar Heels continued to find offensive success as they scored two unanswered goals to give UNC a 5-0 lead. However, the Tribe was not going down without a fight. They scored with less than 30 seconds in the quarter to cut the Tar Heels’ lead to four goals. 

The fourth quarter was equally successful for UNC. Junior midfielder Lisa Slinkert gave the Tar Heels a five goal advantage off of assists from Dixon and Lammers. However, the quarter was scoreless from there and the Tar Heels cruised to a 6-1 victory.

This win keeps North Carolina’s National Championship hopes alive and provides them with a four-game win streak after their loss to Virginia in October. Standout performances from Wirth, Bruder and Dixon are good signs for the Tar Heels as they will face high-caliber competition as they progress through the tournament. Wirth racked up two goals, four shots, and took eight of North Carolina’s nine penalty corners. Her versatility will prove to be useful for the Tar Heels down the stretch.

“I think her (Paityn) skills speak for itself,” head coach Erin Matson said. “With her winning one-v-one’s, scoring on the back post, her passing, her vision, but it’s also just the fire she brings. There’s a difference when she’s out on the field whether it's on the press or in the attack.”

With this win, the Tar Heels advance to the second round of the tournament. They will face either Harvard or Rutgers on Sunday at noon inside Karen Shelton Stadium.

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Special Print Edition
The Daily Tar Heel Victory Paper for November 20, 2023