SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Junior Eva van't Hoog scored 1:26 into overtime on Saturday to earn North Carolina a 3-2 Atlantic Coast Conference field hockey victory at No. 6 Syracuse. Playing at T.S. Coyne Field, the Tar Heels won their second ACC game in a row in overtime to improve to 8-2 overall and 2-1 in league play. The Orange fell to 8-2 overall, 1-2 in the ACC.
"This was a huge win for us in a tough environment," UNC coach Karen Shelton said. "I'm so happy for our Tar Heels. Syracuse is a great team, but I thought we handed their pressure well. At times we looked great, and at times they looked great. It was really a back-and-forth battle and we're thrilled to come away with the victory."
The Tar Heels get very little time to savor it, as they'll be back in action less than 24 hours after celebrating van't Hoog's second gamewinner of the season. Following the victory, UNC boarded its team bus and headed for Albany, where the Tar Heels meet the No. 20 Great Danes Sunday at 1 p.m.
Saturday, on an unseasonably warm afternoon in Syracuse, UNC held a 2-1 lead as the game clock ran out, but SU had a penalty corner to take. The Orange didn't score on that one but drew two more, taking three a row with no time on the clock and finally scoring on the third to tie the game at 2-2 and force overtime. "Normally the team that ties the game has the momentum, but we did what we needed to do and Eva made a brilliant play," Shelton said.
Now THAT is a game-winner! Watch Eva van't Hoog beat the Orange in OT pic.twitter.com/1fendaiuR9— UNC Field Hockey (@UNCFieldHockey) September 23, 2017
For the first time since Shelton can remember, the Tar Heels didn't allow their opponent a possession in overtime. UNC worked the ball around the left side, where van't Hoog got it from Feline Guenther near the baseline. With three defenders around her and the SU keeper in front of her, she spun and flipped a shot into the right side of the cage for the win.
The first half also ended in dramatic fashion. After neither team managed to score in the first 35 minutes, UNC drew its only penalty corner of the half as time ran down, and took the corner with no time remaining. Senior Gab Major deflected Ashley Hoffman's shot in from the left side of the cage, past a diving Orange goalkeeper.
The Tar Heels took the 1-0 lead into the locker room, then came out and extended it. In the 52nd minute of play, van't Hoog scored her first goal of the game, on a pass from Guenther to the left side of the cage.
Syracuse got on the board soon after that, when Elaine Carey scored on a breakaway in the 54th minute to make it 2-1. The Tar Heels held that lead until the end of regulation, when the Orange scored on its ninth penalty corner of the game.
UNC finished with nine shots to 13 by Syracuse, marking the first time this season Carolina has been out-shot. The Tar Heels finished with three penalty corners, equal to their season low.
Redshirt freshman goalkeeper Amanda Hendry made a career-high seven saves for UNC, six of them in the second half.
"Amanda Hendry played well in goal, I thought Malin Evert played great, but it was really a team effort," Shelton said. "We had to play great defense and overcome ups and downs. I'm not pleased that we surrendered a two-goal lead, but the overtime was brilliant."
After the bus ride to Albany, the team won't have much time to prepare for Sunday's game and its second meeting with a ranked team in as many days. But Shelton relishes giving her team challenges like this one, because she believes it's good preparation for the NCAA Tournament, when teams have to win first and second round games on back-to-back days to reach the final four. Thus, for the second weekend in a row UNC is playing on both weekend days, and Shelton's hope is that her team will again pass the test. (Last weekend, UNC beat No. 10 Boston College 2-1 in overtime on Saturday then shut out No. 13 James Madison 3-0 on Sunday.)
"Today's game is meaningless if we don't win tomorrow," Shelton said. "This is a great test for our team – they're tough to beat at their home and we know we're in for a battle.
"Talk about toughness and resilience … if we can get past Albany it will say an awful lot."