Proving that Field Hockey can be played this fall, the ACC played the first part of their championship tournament following an abbreviated season playing each other.
In a game that may prove to be a classic, UNC defeated Syracuse in overtime 4-3 at Karen Shelton Stadium on the campus of UNC. The semi-final game set up the Tar Heels for their 23rd ACC championship game and fourth consecutive championship. It also marked Karen Shelton’s 701st win surpassing UCONN’s Nancy Steven’s all time wins as a coach.
However, it was not to be easy, as Angie Bradley’s charges from Syracuse attempted to knock off the the Tar Heels. It was Bradley’s 14th season at the helm and gave UNC all they could handle.
Syracuse’s goalkeeper Syd Taylor was up to the task as she came through with 6 saves until the final heartbreaker when Erin Mastson entered the circle and Taylor came out to meet her. Although it appeared Taylor was going for the ball her follow through tripped Matson and set up a penalty stroke, which was executed at 4:52 into the first overtime by Bryn Boylan.
UNC struck first at 3:08 with Boylan connecting on the penalty corner her first of two goals for the game. The lead was to stand up until early in the third quarter when Nieuwenhof from Syracuse evened the score at 1-1. Erin Matson from UNC, 18 minutes later was to put the Tar Hells ahead 2-1 which was followed by a Paitlyn Wirth shot and was to give the Tar Heels a 2 goal lead.
The Orange were not to be intimidated when, with less than nine minutes to go, Pleun Lemmers put Syracuse within one. Down by one goal and only 45 seconds left in regular time, Haile Bitter evened the score setting up overtime.
It was an entertaining game and season, disproving the assertion that Field Hockey could not be played this fall. The championship will be played between UNC and Louisville who broke UNC’s winning streak in October.The winner will get the automatic berth in the NCAA tournament this spring, and most certainly there will others from the ACC getting the available at large berths.
Although Lafayette has not played UNC for several years, last year Lafayette battled Syracuse, only to lose in overtime in New York.
The NCAA championship will consist of a smaller field, with the automatic berths to be filled with conference champions and two at large teams. The at large slots will probably be added to, with the Ivy League not playing spring sports.
The Patriot League and Lafayette should be playing this spring and I look forward to confirmation of that soon. Lafayette should not disappoint its student athletes, alumni and fans. I have to say the decision to play by the ACC make me envious. This week end would have been the Patriot League playoffs.
I look forward to a correct decision by Lafayette and Patriot League.