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Back in August, Northwestern and North Carolina stood atop the Penn Monto and National Field Hockey Coaches Association preseason poll.
With one game remaining in the 2022 season, the two squads will face off to see who will prevail as champions. A season ago, Northwestern knocked off three-time defending champion North Carolina to begin its postseason run, where they won its title in program history. Erin Matson is looking to close out her historic North Carolina career with one more title to her name and lead the Tar Heels to a fourth title in five seasons.
We have everything you need to know for the final game of the 2022 season.
Who: North Carolina vs. Northwestern
Time: 1:30 p.m.
Where: University of Connecticut, Storrs, Conn.
How they got here:
No. 1 North Carolina shut out No. 6 Penn State 3-0 to advance to the National Championship for the 21st time in program history. Matson (Chadds Ford, Pa.) factored in all three goals by scoring two and setting up Paityn Wirth (Thompsontown, Pa.) for the final goal. The North Carolina defense held Penn State to one shot on goal and Abigail Taylor made one save for the shutout.
No. 2 Northwestern held on to defeat No. 3 Maryland 2-1 to advance to their second consecutive National Championship appearance. Bente Baekers tallied a goal and assist as she broke a scoreless tie in the fourth quarter. The Northwestern defense held off two straight penalty corners to stave off a late Maryland score. Wildcat Annabel Skubisz, known as Scooby, made five saves in the win.
Last time they met:
North Carolina and Northwestern met in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season in Iowa City, Iowa. Scoreless through the first three quarters, Ana Medina Garcia (Madrid, Spain) and Maddie Zimmer (Hershey, Pa.) scored late to down the defending champions. It was the earliest Tar Heel exit since 2018, which broke a streak of 12 straight trips to the Final Four. Skubisz made four saves, while Taylor made two.
Key stat: Both teams are not afraid to shoot the ball as North Carolina averages 17.5 shots per game, and Northwestern averages 18.5 shots per game.
Players to watch:
Lauren Wadas (NU): The junior midfielder has been solid all season for Northwestern in the midfield, playing important roles on attack and defense. She tallied two goals in the Big Ten tournament to earn All-Tournament honors and scored the deciding goal in their shootout win over Miami (OH) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Paityn Wirth (UNC): She might not be as flashy as Matson or Ryleigh Heck, but Wirth has been an important depth piece for North Carolina all season. The senior forward tallied two goals in her last two games of the NCAA Tournament, along with a four-point performance against Saint Joseph’s.
Jill’s prediction: North Carolina has been one of the most complete teams I’ve seen all season and I don’t think Matson goes down without a fight. 3-1 North Carolina.
Jana’s prediction: Northwestern’s defense levels up to contain Matson. And the Wildcats hammer their transitions out of the back to win. 3-2 Northwestern in overtime.