By Niles Egan
No. 17 field hockey (16-6, 4-0 America East) takes on top-ranked and undefeated North Carolina (19-0, 6-0 ACC) in Chapel Hill on Friday. After securing a win against Miami on Wednesday in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, the Cardinal earned a date with the defending national champion Tar Heels.
Having won seven-straight games and coming off of the program’s second win in NCAA tournament history, Stanford is carrying a significant amount of momentum heading into Friday’s matchup. The 16 wins earned by the Cardinal this year are its most since the program-best 19-3 record in the 2014 season.
In spite of how great Stanford has been recently, their success is eclipsed by the dominance North Carolina has displayed this entire year. The Tar Heels have not lost a single match since losing to Connecticut in double overtime during the semifinals of the 2017 NCAA tournament. UNC leads the nation with an average scoring margin of 2.87 goals.
Stanford’s offense has thrived behind junior attacker Corinne Zanolli, sophomore midfielder Fenella Scutt, and redshirt sophomore defender Sarah Johnson. Zanolli leads the nation in goals with 33 and has had six hat tricks this season, including one against Miami on Wednesday. Scutt and Johnson ranked third and seventh in the nation in assists per game.
North Carolina’s offense, however, may even rival Stanford’s offensive machine. In particular, Tar Heel sophomore forward Erin Matson will be challenging to stop. With 1.5 goals per game, Matson is the only player in the nation who averages more goals per game than Stanford’s Zanolli’s 1.43. Matson also leads the nation in assists and averages 0.94 per game. The UNC star was named both the ACC Rookie of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year as only a freshman last season, and she also is a member of the U.S. Women’s National Team.
Kelsey Bing, a fellow team USA member and Stanford’s senior goalkeeper, has been a force to reckon with in the goal this season. The three-time America East Goalkeeper of the Year has made 117 career saves for the Cardinal and could very well be playing in her last career game for Stanford on Friday. Given the incredible career she has had for the Cardinal, she can be expected to play well against the Tar Heels. A particularly inspired performance from her could trigger an exceptional upset for Stanford.
Winning against the undefeated national champions would be absolutely tremendous for Stanford. Being the significant underdog, the Cardinal have nothing to lose. They are just playing to keep their postseason alive.
Stanford takes on North Carolina at 9 a.m. PST Friday in Chapel Hill.