Overtime Victory Propels Tar Heels into the NCAA Field Hockey Title Game
NORFOLK, Va. (GoHeels.com) – The fourth-ranked North Carolina field hockey team takes pride in sharing the ball, and that’s what earned the Tar Heels a spot in Sunday’s NCAA championship game. In overtime in Friday’s semifinal matchup with No. 6 Connecticut, the Tar Heels used outstanding passing and teamwork to score the game-winner in a 2-1 victory at Old Dominion’s L.R. Hill Sports Complex.
“We talk about passing the ball and being unselfish and that goal was a testament to the kids and their unselfishness and their ability to see the open player and deliver it for a one-time banger,” Shelton said as she patted the shoulder of the scorer, senior Lauren Moyer, during the team’s postgame press conference. Moyer’s goal, her team-high 23rd of the fall, came in the 11th minute of overtime play. Sophomore Malin Evert stole the ball from a UConn player and passed it to senior Emma Bozek, who sent it right back to Evert, who then passed to the far side of the cage where Moyer dove to tip it in from the left post for the win.
The Tar Heels (20-5) will face No. 8 Delaware, a 3-2 winner over Princeton in Friday’s second semifinal game, on Sunday at 1 p.m. for the NCAA crown. UNC is playing for its seventh championship in program history, its first since 2009.
“Congratulations to UConn for a hard-fought game,” Shelton said. “I think both teams played hard and well and it was a defensive battle in the first half. Nothing came easy to either team.”
In a back-and-forth first period, both teams had opportunities but not many shots, two for UNC and three for UConn.
Just 48 seconds into the second half, the Huskies got on the board when Barbara Hoogen sent a shot from the top of the circle just past Tar Heel keeper Shannon Johnson’s outstretched left foot and into the cage.
Carolina tied the game in the 42nd minute of play. Evert sent a long pass downfield to Bozek on the right side. Bozek fed it into the circle, where junior Sam Night slid to get her stick on the ball and one-touch it past UConn keeper Nina Klein for the score. “Snight’s goal was amazing,” Shelton said.
The Tar Heels were 2-0 in overtime during the regular-season and went into the extra period with confidence and energy, despite having already played 70 minutes on a sunny, warm afternoon. “Credit to our strength and conditioning coach, Chad Workman, for having us ready to play overtime,” Shelton said. “It’s grueling and very physical, and I feel like we had legs and were able to execute when it counted.”
In the seven-on-seven extra period, UNC didn’t give up a shot while earning three. The third one was the charm, securing the Tar Heels a spot in the final game of the NCAA season.
“Once Malin had that infield break I trusted she would see me,” Moyer said. “Somebody had to be on the end of it and I was lucky enough to be there. She sent a beautiful ball across and it was an easy tap-in.”
The Tar Heels have played (86) and won (60) more tournament games than any other program. Despite that deep-rooted history, however, this year’s team hasn’t dominated its way through the season. For the first time since 2009, the Tar Heels weren’t seeded in the tournament bracket, meaning they played first and second-round games on the road instead of on their home turf. Then again, the last time UNC played on the road in the opening rounds, 2009, was also the year of the last Tar Heel championship.
“Becoming a team is a process and it takes time,” Shelton said. “We had our struggles and we weren’t playing as well as we were capable of playing. We have many talented pieces, but we’re better when we play together. We figured that out, but it took a little bit of time. We’re still a work in progress, but really proud to get to the final game.”
Sunday’s matchup with the Blue Hens will be UNC’s 17th appearance in the final game. The Tar Heels fell to Syracuse 4-2 last year in the championship.