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No. 9 Princeton field hockey falls to No. 1 North Carolina in national championship

Princeton field hockey lost in the national championship game to North Carolina. Photo Credit: Jack Graham / The Daily Princetonian
Princeton field hockey lost in the national championship game to North Carolina. Photo Credit: Jack Graham / The Daily Princetonian

No. 9 Princeton field hockey (16–5) fell to No.1-ranked, defending national champions North Carolina (23–0) in the NCAA National Championship game on Sunday afternoon, by a score of 6–1. 

The Tigers and the Tar Heels met in a rematch of the NCAA final from both 1996 and 2012 on damp turf at Kentner Stadium on the campus of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. To reach the title game, Princeton bested No. 4 Virginia 2–1, while the Tar Heels took down No. 7 Boston College 6–3 in the national semifinals.

Fired up following the upset of Virginia, Princeton came out firing on all cylinders. Early in the match, junior striker Clara Roth stole the ball away from a North Carolina defender deep in the right corner of the circle. Roth played an expert pass across the face of the goal to junior striker Emma Street, who was waiting wide open. Street slammed the ball past UNC’s goalie to give the Tigers a 1–0 lead just 2:13 into the game. 

Later in the first, UNC earned the first corner of the game, but did not convert a score. With only 40 seconds to play in the quarter, Melissa Creatore slipped a ball by senior goalie Grace Baylis to tie the game. At the end of the first, both teams had fired seven shots.

Princeton earned three consecutive corners to open the second stanza, but none of the balls found the back of the net. 

With 19 minutes gone in the game, junior midfielder and three-time First-Team All-Ivy League honoree Julianna Tornetta fell to the turf clutching her knee. She got up quickly, though, and walked off the field unaided. In her absence, UNC’s Eva Smolenaars added another tally for the Tar Heels. Tornetta then re-entered the game, but hit the turf again and was forced to walk off after just 30 seconds. She did not return to the game. North Carolina led 2–1 at the half. 

The Tar Heels took control of the game in the third, as ACC Offensive Player of the Year Erin Matson added two tallies. Without Tornetta patrolling the midfield, the Tigers struggled to possess the ball and make a stand defensively.

To open the fourth quarter of play, North Carolina earned two consecutive corners, but could not add on to its 4–1 lead. Minutes later, playing one up following a yellow card assessed to Princeton senior midfielder Krista Hoffman, Smolenaars added her second goal of the day to give UNC a four-goal advantage.

In search of any offensive opportunity, Princeton earned its sixth corner of the day, but the shot by junior midfielder MaryKate Neff sailed wide. On another corner for the Tigers, first-year midfielder Sammy Popper’s shot was off the mark. 

With just 2:50 left on the clock, UNC’s Hannah Griggs took advantage of a ball misplayed by Princeton and added another goal for the Tar Heels. The 6–1 margin would prove too much for Princeton to overcome in the waning minutes, even as Popper earned a penalty stroke with just one second remaining.

Princeton finishes the season at 16–5 following an undefeated Ivy League campaign. This loss ends a 13-game win streak for the Tigers, the second longest in program history. North Carolina earns its second consecutive national title and eighth overall, while extending its win streak to 46 games. 

The national title game also marks the end of the Class of 2020’s Princeton careers. They finish their four years with a 55–25 record, two Ivy League titles, and three NCAA Final Four appearances. 

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