By Niles Egan
No. 15 field hockey’s (16-7, 4-0 America East) season ended on Friday in a 4-0 loss to No. 1 North Carolina (20-0, 6-0 ACC) in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Tar Heels raced to a quick lead behind three goals in the first half and Stanford was never able to gain any momentum to muster a comeback.
UNC was just too much for the Cardinal to handle. The Tar Heels had 13 shots in the game compared to the Cardinal’s six. North Carolina’s dominance was not unexpected. They are the defending national champions and winners of 43-consecutive matches, a streak which dates back to the start of last season in which they ran the table.
As she has for the Tar Heels all season, sophomore forward Erin Matson led UNC’s overwhelming offensive charge. The 2018 ACC Offensive Player of the Year and Team USA player scored once at the end of each half.
North Carolina’s first two goals established dominance, coming seven minutes into the first quarter and five minutes into the second quarter. The stingy Tar Heel defense prevented the Cardinal from starting any sort of offensive momentum. Stanford’s star junior attacker Corinne Zanolli, who has led the Cardinal offense this season, was effectively held back by the UNC defense. Zanolli was held scoreless for only the sixth time this season.
The game showcased a matchup between two of the most prolific offensive players in the NCAA this season, between Zanolli and Matson. Although Zanolli leads the nation in goals this season with 33, Matson is the only player to average more goals per game and won the head-to-head matchup on Friday. Nevertheless, Zanolli’s stellar season included demolishing her own school record for single season goals.
The loss was a tough way for Stanford to end what has otherwise been an amazing season. The Cardinal were riding a season-high seven-game winning streak before their match in Chapel Hill. The 16 wins that the Cardinal amassed this year were the most since the program’s best season, a 19-3 record in 2014
The game marks the end of the collegiate careers of senior goalkeeper Kelsey Bing, attacker Emma Alderton, midfielder Phoebe Crosthwaite, and attacker Jessica Welch. The class had a 57-27 overall record including an 18-4 record in conference play. They amassed three NCAA tournament appearances coming from their three America East titles in 2016, 2017 and 2019. Bing had six saves on Friday, marking the end of a stupendous career in which she was named the America East Goalkeeper of the Year for her final three seasons and caught the eye of Team USA.
Stanford’s fantastic season has come to a bittersweet close, but just as they did this season, the Cardinal will surely fight and persevere in 2020.