Like we discussed with soccer last week, field hockey is another sport that has its schedule altered by COVID-19. The typical fall sport will have its NCAA Tournament take part this spring, starting this Friday.
North Carolina have been quite a force in field hockey in recent years, and it should be no surprise that the Tar Heels will be involved in this year’s tournament too. After a 16-1 year between fall and spring seasons, UNC received the #1 overall seed.
Coming into this season off the back of two undefeated, national championship winning seasons, the Tar Heels dropped their second game of the year to Louisville on the road. They’ve responded by winning 15 straight, including two revenge victories over that Louisville team. They won the ACC Tournament in the fall and then beat Wake Forest in double overtime to be the conference’s automatic NCAA Tournament qualifier.
Over the course of the season, the Heels have scored more than double the amount of goals they’ve allowed. They’ve given up 25 in total all year, which is the same amount UNC have gotten from Erin Matson alone.
With the bracket at 12 teams, UNC will get a bye in the first round. Their opening game will come on May 2nd against the winner of a game between Miami (Ohio) and Stanford. The Cardinal went 10-2, winning the America East championship over Monmouth in double overtime. As for Miami, they went 13-1, with their lone loss coming to the same Louisville team that knocked off the Tar Heels.
Both potential opponents put up some solid records, but did do so against lesser competition. In addition to UNC, the ACC had Louisville get in as the #3 overall seed. Several other ACC teams were ranked and likely would’ve made it in were it not for the reduced tournament field this year. Stanford and Miami are both ranked, so they’re no slouches, but UNC will deservedly be favored.
Based on seeding, their most likely semifinal opponent would be #4 Iowa, while #2 Michigan and #3 Louisville are the top seeds in the other half of the bracket.
One positive for Carolina is that they will have home field advantage throughout the NCAA Tournament. The Tar Heels’ area in the bracket is being held at Karen Shelton Stadium, meaning their first game will be held there. In addition, the NCAA had announced that the semifinals and championship game were also to be held at Shelton Stadium. That means, UNC will never have to leave home for however far they advance.
It should also be noted that a national championship this season would be a historic one for the program. A win this year would be the ninth in school history, moving them into a tie with Old Dominion for the most in the sport.
Men’s basketball will probably always be the school’s most famous program. Women’s soccer has been the most historically dominant. However in terms of recent success, it’s hard to go against Karen Shelton and field hockey, having won four national championships since 2007. Let’s see if they can add another to that tally this year.