CHAPEL HILL—Duke traveled to Chapel Hill with hopes of extending its win streak to eight and spoiling North Carolina’s undefeated season.
But when the clock hit zero at Karen Shelton Stadium, it was the Tar Heels that came out on top.
Top-ranked North Carolina defeated the fourth-ranked Blue Devils 5-2. The Tar Heels outshot Duke 19-5 and have now beaten the Blue Devils in 10 of their past 13 meetings dating back to 2012. Duke entered the matchup already locked into the No. 2 seed in the upcoming ACC Tournament, but still saw its meeting with UNC as a chance to grow as a team.
“This is a bonus game for us,” head coach Pam Bustin said. “An opportunity to play against the best in the country right now and to get things worked out and challenge ourselves. So we did some different things; we challenged ourselves.”
The match started slowly, with the Tar Heels’ Megan Duvernois taking the game’s first shot in the 12th minute. North Carolina would take two more shots before Duvernois was tripped up near the cage in the 20th minute, giving the junior a penalty stroke opportunity. The Collegeville, Pa., native capitalized on that opportunity, whipping the ball into the cage for her fourth goal of the season.
Neither team could make a dent over the next 10 minutes, with Duke taking two off-target shots. But in the 34th minute, the Tar Heels scored once again, with freshman Erin Matson’s shot bouncing off a Blue Devil defender and into the cage. The score gave Matson her 12th goal and boosted her team-leading point total to 34.
It did not take long for the Blue Devils to respond, however, as senior Caroline Andretta notched her 10th goal of the year, off a Margaux Paolino assist, with just 16 seconds remaining in the half to cut the deficit to 2-1. Despite being outshot 5-3, Bustin was impressed with her team’s play over the first 35 minutes.
“I thought we had a great attack; we did not really create the shooting opportunities in the first 20, but I thought we really dictated the game and I thought we played an outstanding first-half,” Bustin said. “We also shot ourselves in the foot with plays that gave [North Carolina] scoring opportunities that they capitalized on, which a good team does.”
North Carolina extended its lead to 3-1 in the 38th minute when junior Marissa Creatore was able to draw Blue Devil goalie Sammi Steele outside the goalie box, leaving the cage wide open for classmate Catherine Hayden to score her team-leading 14th goal on the season. Duke answered quickly, notching their second goal of the game via an electric slapshot off the stick of senior Rose Tynan. But from then on, it was all Carolina.
Freshman Hannah Griggs would score just a minute later for the Tar Heels, and another goal from senior Ashley Hoffman in the 50th minute proved to be the dagger. By the 67th minute North Carolina was bringing in its backups, and the Tar Heels’ finished their regular season as the sole undefeated team in the country.
“They are loaded,” Bustin said of the Blue Devils’ crosstown rivals. “They are experienced and they have been building for a year like this for a while. We have got a lot of inexperience that is getting better and better with every game we play, so it is a great opportunity for us to grow up and play some better hockey.”
Saturday also marked the final time Duke’s five seniors—Andretta, Tynan, Erin Scherrer, Morgan Bitting and Christy Palazzese—would get to match up against the Tar Heels in the regular season.
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“It is really special and it says a lot that we get to play them a lot,” Andretta said. “Every game we get up for it no matter what—if it is in the tournament or just regular season. We have so much respect for them and it is just a really fun rivalry. I hope we get to see them again.”
The Blue Devils must now prepare for the ACC Championship, with their first matchup of the tournament pitting second-seeded Duke against seventh-seeded Syracuse Nov. 1. Despite the loss, the Blue Devils hope their matchup with North Carolina will help prepare them for the competition they will face in the postseason.
“I think we will get so much out of this game,” Andretta said. “Even though the score was not what we wanted, I think it is going to get us really excited to go back to practice and tune up for the ACC.”