Field Hockey Wins 10th NCAA Title

Box Score STORRS, Conn. – North Carolina capped a perfect season with the program’s 10th trophy, beating Northwestern 2-1 Sunday afternoon to claim the 2022 NCAA Field Hockey Championship.
After the No. 3 Wildcats scored with just under two minutes in regulation to tie the game at 1-1, senior Erin Matson netted the gamewinner with 1:19 on the clock to put her team ahead for good. Matson was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player and was joined on the All-Tournament team by senior Paityn Wirth, who assisted on the gamewinner; freshman Ryleigh Heck, who scored the day’s first goal; and senior Meredith Sholder, who anchored the midfield in a stellar team defensive effort.
“I’m absolutely thrilled for our team, and I want to congratulate Northwestern,” UNC coach Karen Shelton said. “They’re not called the Cardiac ‘Cats for nothing – they made it real interesting at the end, but throughout the entire game they were such a threat.
“I’m proud of our group for defending as well as we did as a complete unit – I thought we defended the entire game, every player. We had a plan and while we turned the ball over a little bit and they had opportunities, I thought we did what we wanted to do.”


The title, UNC’s fourth in the past five years, gives the Tar Heels a total of 10, more than any other DI field hockey program. Carolina finished 21-0 for the fifth undefeated season in program history. Northwestern, the defending NCAA Champion and the team that ended UNC’s season in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament, finished the year 20-5.


With temperatures in the 30’s at UConn’s Nancy Stevens Field, UNC scored early in the second quarter and held onto that 1-0 lead for much of the game. The goal came on a penalty corner, one of five on the day for the Tar Heels. Freshman Sietske Brüning had the initial hit and Heck deflected it in to put Carolina on the board.


Northwestern didn’t get off a shot until the fourth quarter and drew only one penalty corner on the day, but the Wildcats capitalized on that opportunity. After having pulled keeper Annabel Skubisz with 2:27 to play, they earned a corner and scored, with Bente Baekers on the shot, assisted by Kayla Blas and Alia Marshall.


The Tar Heels answered quickly, with the score tied for just 39 seconds before Carolina pulled ahead again. Senior Romea Riccardo’s set up the play with an aerial, feeding the ball to Wirth. Wirth carried the ball into the circle and sent it toward the cage, where Matson got her stick on it to tip it past Skubisz, who was reinserted after Northwestern scored.  


“It was opportunistic – Romea threw a beautiful pass, Paityn did a nice job with it, and Erin in front of the goal is always a threat,” Shelton said.


UNC finished with 15 shots to Northwestern’s two, outshooting an opponent for the 20th time in 21 games this season. Skubisz made seven saves for the Wildcats, including on a first-quarter penalty stroke by Matson. It was the only time this season that a Tar Heel stroke had been saved.


Carolina, the top overall seed in the field, reached its 21st NCAA title game with a 3-0 victory over No. 6 Penn State on Friday. The Tar Heels now have a record 77 total wins in NCAA play, and a shiny new trophy for an already-robust collection.


“I’m just so proud of the entire team,” Shelton said. “Every player contributed, even the ones that didn’t step on the field today because all season long they made us better at practice and they worked hard every day. It was just an outstanding season for all of us.”


No. 1 UNC 2, No. 3 Northwestern 1

Scoring: UNC – Ryleigh Heck (Sietske Brüning), 17:00; NU – Bente Baekers (Kayla Blas, Alia Marshall), 58:02; UNC – Erin Matson (Paityn Wirth), 58:41

Shots: UNC 15 (5/5/3/2), NU 2 (0/0/0/2)

Penalty Corners: UNC 5 (2/2/1/0), NU 1 (0/0/0/1)

Goalkeeper Saves: UNC 0 (Abigail Taylor, 60:00, 0 saves, 1 goal allowed), NU 7 (Annabel Skubisz, 58:19, 7 saves, 2 goals allowed; Team, 1:41, 0 saves, 0 goals allowed)

Records: UNC 21-0, NU 20-5



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