The University of North Carolina's team, the Tar Heels, defeated Northwestern in a thrilling shootout to secure the NCAA Field Hockey National Title with a final score of 2-1. This exciting game was covered by

The University of North Carolina’s team, the Tar Heels, defeated Northwestern in a thrilling shootout to secure the NCAA Field Hockey National Title with a final score of 2-1. This exciting game was covered by

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina earned the 11th NCAA Field Hockey Championship in program history on Sunday afternoon at Karen Shelton Stadium, winning in a penalty shootout in front of the largest home crowd in program history.

The number one Tar Heels triumphed over the second-ranked Northwestern with a score of 2-1, thanks to sophomore Ryleigh Heck’s game-winning shot. After a tied score in the initial round of five shots, the shootout led to sudden death. UNC’s goalkeeper Maddie Kahn successfully blocked Northwestern’s first shot, giving Heck the opportunity to secure the victory, which she did, resulting in a celebration for her team and the majority of fans.

Erin Matson, in her first year as the head coach for UNC, expressed her difficulty in describing the intense national championship match. After five years of playing for the Tar Heels and winning four national championships, she stated that a tied score at the end of regulation, followed by two overtimes and a sudden death shootout, created an incredible atmosphere for the game.

“Northwestern put forth maximum effort. It was an exceptional game, so credit to them and to Annabel Skubisz, the Wildcat goalkeeper, for holding down the fort.”

UNC has secured their second consecutive title and their fifth out of the last six years. The university already held the record for most titles won by a program, and now they have extended that record even further. (Old Dominion holds second place with a total of nine titles.)

Following a scoreless opening half, the Tar Heels gained the advantage with a penalty corner goal at 2:33 into the third quarter. The goal was scored by freshman Charly Bruder, with assistance from fifth-year seniors Paityn Wirth and Romea Riccardo.

During the 44th minute of the game, Northwestern received a penalty stroke due to an unlawful block of a penalty corner shot. Peyton Halsey successfully scored the shot, resulting in a tied score of 1-1 going into the fourth quarter.

The teams continued playing through the fourth quarter and two additional 10-minute overtime periods, but the score remained tied at 1-1. This led to a penalty shootout, which was the first for UNC since the 2017 NCAA semifinals. In the first round of the shootout, both teams made two out of five shots, resulting in sudden death. Northwestern went first, but Kahn was able to save the shot. This meant that the game was now in the hands of Heck, who Matson encouraged by saying, “Just go win a national championship.”

Heck, who also successfully made her initial shot during the five-player sequence, shared that she thoroughly enjoys penalty shootouts. “In that moment, my mind completely went blank,” she recalled. “I don’t even recall spinning or scoring. All I can remember is being surrounded by my teammates, cheering and feeling an incredible rush of emotions. It was truly one of the best feelings I’ve ever experienced.”

The game on Sunday was completely sold out before the start of the week. Only a limited number of standing-room tickets were left before the game. As the game began, a large crowd had formed around the stands and extended onto the field. The announced attendance was 3,200, which was the biggest turnout in the history of the program.

Matson expressed his immense pride in the team’s growth and development throughout the season, attributing it to their hard work, discussions, and practices. He noted that not only have they become exceptional hockey players, but also exemplary leaders, individuals, and student-athletes. He was overjoyed that their success took place on their home field.


Kahn received the title of Most Outstanding Player and was accompanied on the All-Tournament team by Heck, Bruder, and senior midfielder Katie Dixon.

Matson is the initial individual from Tar Heel to achieve championship victories in both player and head coach roles. She is also the fourth former player from UNC to win an NCAA title as a head coach at Carolina, joining Anson Dorrance of women’s soccer, and Joe Breschi and Dave Klarmann of men’s lacrosse.

North Carolina defeats Northwestern 2-1 in double overtime with a penalty shootout.

Points earned: UNC – Charly Bruder (assisted by Paityn Wirth and Romea Riccardo), 32:33; NU – Peyton Halsey (scored on a penalty stroke), 43:41; UNC wins through a penalty shootout.
Shots: UNC 14 (2/4/1/2/4/1), NU 8 (1/0/3/1/0/3)

Reworded: Number of penalty corners: UNC 4 (0 successful/0 failed/1 saved/1 blocked/1 missed/1 scored), NU 6 (1 successful/1 failed/3 saved/1 blocked/0 missed/0 scored)

The goalkeepers for UNC and NU both had 1 goal allowed in 80 minutes of playing time, with Maddie Kahn making 3 saves for UNC and Annabel Skubisz making 4 saves for NU.
Defensive saves: NU 1 (Ilse Tromp)

Teams’ records: UNC with 18 wins and 3 losses, Northwestern with 21 wins and 2 losses.