Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

19° Evanston, IL
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Email Newsletter

Sign up to receive our email newsletter in your inbox.



Rapid Recap: No. 1 UNC 1 (3), No. 2 Northwestern 1 (2)

Photo courtesy of Ryan Kuttler/Northwestern Athletics
Freshman back Ilse Tromp.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Three hundred and sixty-four days have passed since Northwestern and UNC last met on the pitch.

Nearly a full calendar year ago, fifth-year Tar Heel stalwart Erin Matson was the hero in her final collegiate contest, bagging the game-winning goal with less than two minutes on the clock. Her tally — which came a mere 39 seconds after former Wildcat Bente Baekers had equalized on NU’s lone penalty corner of the game — secured UNC’s record-10th national championship.

On Sunday, the ‘Cats and Tar Heels met on the sport’s grandest stage to vie for its ultimate crown once again. The seeds remained the same from a year prior — No. 1 UNC vs. No. 2 NU. Fuchs, in her 15th season at the helm in Evanston, prepared for a duel with the first-year head coach in Matson, the NCAA legend and disciple of Karen Shelton.

The ‘Cats earned the first penalty corner of the game in less than a minute, but senior midfielder Lauren Wadas’ shot sprayed wide of the cage. 

Four minutes into the second frame, freshman back Ilse Tromp produced a crucial defensive play with her back to the cage, punching a looping Tar Heel shot away with her stick to keep the game scoreless. 

Although UNC enjoyed the bulk of the offensive pressure in the first two frames, registering six shots to NU’s one, neither team could find the back of the cage. 

Less than three minutes ticked off the scoreboard in the second half before the Tar Heels broke the deadlock. On their first penalty corner of the game, forward Charly Bruder’s shot slid past outstretched senior goalkeeper Annabel Skubisz to nab Bruder’s 15th goal of the season and a 1-0 lead.

Ten minutes of hockey passed before the ‘Cats found the equalizer. After Tromp’s drag shot was stopped on the line by a UNC player’s body, the official awarded a penalty stroke. Graduate student forward Peyton Halsey calmly stepped to the spot and converted the penalty stroke, tying the game 1-1.

In a back-and-forth final frame, neither squad could net the game’s deciding goal. Wadas’ final penalty corner foray with just 30.4 seconds left on the clock found the back of the cage but was overturned because the shot was above the backboard. 

The first overtime period provided end-to-end action for the fans at Karen Shelton Stadium. Skubisz came up with a trio of timely saves to keep the score knotted at 1-1, including a diving effort to stop a UNC shot on a penalty stroke.

In the second overtime period, Wadas had a pair of chances to end the game, though Kahn came up with a pair of saves to send Sunday’s national championship into a shootout. 

After exchanging goals and saves in the initial five-attempt wave, the shootout went to sudden death, with Tar Heel forward Ryleigh Heck netting the winner to hand Matson her first national title as a head coach.

Here are three takeaways from NU’s defeat to UNC:

1. Penalty corners instrumental to both squads

It took NU nearly 58 minutes to draw its first penalty corner of the game last year against the Tar Heels. On Sunday in Chapel Hill, it took the ‘Cats all of 46 seconds.

Although Wadas’ ensuing shot failed to test UNC goalkeeper Maddie Kahn, it was an early indicator of NU’s ability to test the Tar Heels in the circle. However, the ‘Cats wouldn’t draw another penalty corner until the waning ticks of the second frame. 

For a team which generates so much of its scoring production from penalty corners, with Tromp and Wadas the main benefactors, the Tar Heels limited coach Tracey Fuchs’ squad to just two corners — NU drew seven in the first half against Duke Friday.

Still, it was the Tar Heels who struck first off the penalty corner, with Bruder hammering a shot into the back of the cage to claim a 1-0 advantage.

The ‘Cats continued to mount pressure in the third quarter, culminating in a trio of penalty corners. Although NU was unable to convert on any, Tromp’s drag shot deep into the third frame helped secure Halsey’s decisive penalty stroke.

UNC and the ‘Cats each secured a penalty corner in the game’s final minutes of regulation, but neither squad was able to score. 

2. Skubisz, NU defense come up with stop after stop

While NU’s offense, which has registered 63 goals on the seasons from both corners and counter attacking play, draws the bulk of praise, Fuchs has consistently shone light on her team’s defense — the stingiest shotstopping unit nationally. 

The ‘Cats had conceded an NCAA-low 13 goals on the season ahead of Sunday’s national championship affair and 7.7 shots per game to opponents. Entering the game, only three teams notched multi-goal efforts against Fuchs’s squad.

After surrendering a penalty corner tally in the third quarter, NU’s defense held strong for the remainder of regulation.

But it was Skubisz who was the standout performer in overtime, registering three saves, including a penalty stroke save, to keep the ‘Cats alive.

3. Matson and UNC knock of Fuchs and the ‘Cats again

Sunday’s national title game was a war of attrition, neither side conceding an inch in the final 35 minutes of hockey.

After crucial saves from Skubisz and Kahn, all eyes turned to the decisive penalty shootout to name the 2023 national champions.

In the end it was Heck who emerged as the hero Sunday, getting her final penalty corner attempt beyond the reach of Skubisz.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @CervantesPAlex 

Related Stories:

Rapid Recap: No. 2 Northwestern 2, No. 3 Duke 1

Field Hockey: No. 2 Northwestern rallies in fourth quarter to knock off Louisville 3-2, advances to third straight NCAA Tournament semifinals

Rapid Recap: Northwestern 3, Louisville 2


More to Discover