Field hockey: Historic season ends in NCAA tournament first-round loss to North Carolina, 4-0

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Courtesy image / TRIBE ATHLETICS

After a comeback victory in the play-in round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament, William and Mary faced a quick turnaround with a game in Chapel Hill against North Carolina Friday. The College entered the first-round matchup on a four-game winning streak, the last two of those wins giving the Tribe its first Colonial Athletic Association championship and its first NCAA tournament victory in program history.

The College faced its most challenging test yet against North Carolina, the Atlantic Coast Conference champion and top-seeded team in the tournament. The Tar Heels had not lost a game all season after outscoring opponents 88-13, but the loser of their game with the College would be eliminated from championship contention. The winner would advance to the Elite Eight Sunday afternoon against the winner of Michigan and Saint Joseph’s. Friday Nov. 9, The College (12-8, 5-1 CAA) mustered a strong defensive effort to keep the game close early, but a lack of offensive opportunities cost the Tribe as the Tar Heels (20-0, 6-0 ACC) ended the College’s season with a 4-0 win.

The Tar Heels dominated in possession out of the gate, but the Tribe was able to stymie them early on due to strong play from the defense and midfield. The Tribe was able to clear its defensive half a couple times in the first five minutes, but the Tar Heels were quick to recover possession. North Carolina had put up two goals in the opening five minutes of the ACC Championship game against Wake Forest, but they were unable to produce any shots in that same time frame against the College. With just over 28 minutes to go in the opening half, the Tar Heels created their first shot on the game, but it skidded wide of the target. Nearly 15 minutes in, with the game still scoreless, the Tribe managed to carve out of a couple of attacking chances, but it failed to produce any shots. Nevertheless, the College’s stint of possession gave its defense a break from the relentless pressure of the Tar Heels’ offense. Once the Tar Heels reestablished their offense, they fired their first shot on goal of the game. Forward Erin Matson received a pass from forward Marissa Creatore and launched a shot into the top of the net and over the shoulder of freshman goalkeeper Kimi Jones in the 18th minute.

The College’s defense recovered to hold off the Tar Heels for the next few minutes before conceding the first penalty corner of the game. Nevertheless, the Tribe preserved the one-goal deficit by successfully clearing the penalty corner with a little more than 10 minutes to play in the half. The Tribe was able to clear the zone and enjoyed a few minutes of offensive possession, but it could not break through the Tar Heels’ defense for its first shot of the game. The Tar Heels made the College pay for its inability to convert on the offensive by earning their second penalty corner of the game with less than seven minutes left in the opening half. This time, North Carolina buried a shot in the upper corner of the goal off of the corner. Matson, the goal-scorer earlier in the half, provided the assist and senior midfielder Ashley Hoffman finished it off with her first goal of the NCAA tournament. The College prevented North Carolina from scoring for the remainder of the first half, and the game went to the half with the Tar Heels holding a 2-0 advantage. The Tar Heels have only conceded two goals in a game on two separate occasions in the 2018 season.

The College tried to start an uphill climb to another comeback victory at the start of the second half of the first-round game. Unlike the first half, the Tar Heels jumped out to a fast start. Junior midfielder Catherine Hayden scored just over a minute into the second half. She fired a shot from just inside the circle that screamed past Jones and found the right corner of the goal. Even though the College was unable to muster much offensive production in the next 14 minutes, it managed to keep North Carolina from scoring their fourth goal until the 51st minute. Once again, Matson was involved in the goal as the Tar Heels scored off of a penalty corner for the second time. She took the penalty corner and found Creatore. Creatore passed the ball to Hoffman, who blasted a shot past a sliding Jones to up North Carolina’s lead to 4-0. Hoffman was the first Tar Heel to tally her second goal against the Tribe.

The College worked to find its first shot of the game, but efforts by senior midfielder Estelle Hughes and freshman midfielder Cara Menges were stymied by the strong Tar Heel defense. North Carolina kept possession in the last 10 minutes to salt the game away and claim a 4-0 victory. The College was unable to register a shot in the game.

The Tar Heels advance to Sunday’s national quarterfinal against the winner of another first round game between eighth-ranked Michigan and 10th-ranked Saint Joseph’s.

With the loss to the Tar Heels, one of the best seasons in Tribe Field Hockey history came to an end. Along with it, so did the careers of the seniors on the team. Among these seniors are Hughes, midfielder Jenny McCann and defender Caroline Arrowood. Hughes was tied for the team lead in goals for the College this year, scoring 13, a total matched only by junior forward Woodard Hooper. Despite the losses, the Tribe is poised to contend for its second-straight CAA championship and NCAA tournament appearance in 2019. Three members of the All-CAA Rookie team, Jones, Menges and midfielder Jorja Morgan, as well as four other All-CAA team members, Hooper, junior midfielders Christie van de Kamp, Cassidy Goodwin and Annie Snead, will be returning for the Tribe.