Penn State’s No. 6 field hockey postseason ended Friday in Storrs, Connecticut, with a 3-0 NCAA semifinal loss to No. 1 North Carolina.
The Nittany Lions were aiming for their first NCAA championship game appearance since 2007, but Friday was all North Carolina as Tar Heel’s offense and defense dominated throughout the game. Five-time ACC Player of the Year Erin Matson had a strong day, scoring the game’s first two goals for the Tar Heels, and elder forward Paityn Wirth netted three with a fine goal early in the fourth quarter.
How it happened
It was a physical game from the start, with both North Carolina and Penn State playing very aggressively, fighting for every ball and making multiple turnovers.
Penn State had their first real opportunity to hit a penalty corner with five minutes left in the first quarter. Mackenzie Allessie set up a beautiful shot for Sophia Gladieux, which went just wide of the net. North Carolina then took three straight penalty corners of their own to end the first quarter. Goalie Brie Barraco and the Nittany Lion defense held off the attacks and held the game 0-0 after one.
The second quarter looked similar as both teams continued their aggressive game plans. Six minutes into the quarter, North Carolina hit first thanks to five-time ACC Player of the Year Erin Matson, who got the pass in the circle and made a nice move to shoot one right past Barraco to score the game’s first goal achieve.
Penn State had to respond after a goal, but the Tar Heels played excellent defense and kept the Nittany Lions from even getting a shot throughout the second quarter. North Carolina led 1-0 after 30 minutes.
As the third quarter began, North Carolina was back in control from the jump. The Tar Heels continued to keep the ball on offense and scored again after 10 minutes in the quarter. Matson scored her second goal of the afternoon and extended the lead to two.
A minute after the goal, Penn State had their first shot in almost 30 minutes of play, a nice backhand shot from Gladieux that went wide. The Nittany Lions tried but failed to score and held the game 2-0 after three quarters.
The Tar Heels weren’t done with a 2-0 lead. This time it was Paityn Wirth who scored her fifth goal of the season and extended the lead to three. North Carolina played keep-away for the remainder of the game and won 3-0, eliminating the Nittany Lions.
- The Penn State offense was non-existent for most of the game. The Nittany Lions managed just four shots total, only one of which was a shot on goal. North Carolina played excellent defense throughout the day, which showed throughout the game.
- Brie Barraco had a tough day at the net, conceding three goals for the first time since September 30. It was an unfortunate end to her great season, as she averaged just one goal per game and six shutouts for the year.
- Though it came up short, it was a special season for Penn State, which won part of the regular-season Big Ten title and finished the year 17-4.