Knocking off the No. 1 team in the country is a tough enough feat on its own. When you’re down two of your best players and on the road in a hostile environment, it’s not a recipe for success.
Despite an early scoring strike that had North Carolina’s squad squirming, Stanford’s field hockey team couldn’t quite spring the upset over a talented Tar Heels squad on Sunday, ultimately losing 6-2.
The Cardinal (6-4) came into the matchup red hot, winner of five straight games, including a 2-0 victory over Radford on Saturday.
And when senior defender Becky Dru’s cross inside the circle set up freshman Jessica Chisholm for a tip-in goal just eight minutes into Sunday’s game, Stanford could smell another big win.
But the lead was very short-lived.
Just 19 seconds after Chisholm’s shot found the net, North Carolina (9-1) responded with a goal of its own after taking the faceoff and earning a penalty corner. Kelsey Kolojejchick—a two-time All-American midfielder and member of the U.S. National Team program—took the push-in and tied the contest at 1-1 with a strike from the top of the circle.
The UNC go-ahead goal came a few minutes later, in the 14th minute, when a dangerous ball across the cage found Tar Heels senior Jaclyn Radvany for an easy score. The floodgates seemed to open for North Carolina, as Kolojejchick scored her second goal of the match on a drive into the circle and UNC struck twice more before halftime to make the score 5-1.
The halftime stats were telling—North Carolina outshot the Cardinal 9-3 and had seven penalty corners to Stanford’s two.
Even though the Tar Heels continued to move the ball well in the second half, both sides buckled down on defense and Stanford was still very much in the game late. In the 55th minute, Dru powered up on another shot from a penalty corner and Lauren Becker managed to deflect it in past the Carolina goalie to cut the deficit to three and energize the visiting side.
Once again, however, the Tar Heels showed why they have won two NCAA Championships in the last five years, bumping the lead back up to a more comfortable four-goal margin that would stand as the final score.
While it wasn’t the result Stanford was looking for, the Cardinal has to be pleased with a competitive result against a quality opponent after the team lost three straight early-season games for the first time since 2008.
That included a double-overtime loss to a different No. 1—the University of Maryland—in the second game of the year.
“I think our team is showing growth, trying to improve their game as individuals and learning from mistakes,” head coach Tara Danielson said.
Finding openings has not been the team’s problem, as Stanford is outshooting its opponents 161-91 and earning penalty corners at a good clip. But the Card has allowed 15 goals in its four losses, while giving up just four goals in its six wins.
With the return of starters Kelsey Harbin and Maddie Secco imminent—both competed in the recently completed Junior Pan American Championships—Stanford will need to step up its defense as conference play begins this Friday against rival California. The Bears are relying on several young players this season but will have home-turf advantage, with the game slated for noon from Berkeley on the Pac-12 Network.