UNC falls to UConn in NCAA field hockey semifinal shootout
It didn’t happen in the championship game this time. But for North Carolina, the end was every bit as disappointing.
The Tar Heels, who had lost in the title game the past three years after winning it all in 2009, fell to Connecticut in the NCAA Tournament semifinals Friday at Old Dominion University’s L.R. Hill Sports Complex in the first NCAA field hockey tournament game to be decided by the new shootout format.
Tar Heel forward Charlotte Craddock’s second-half goal knotted the game at one, and it stayed that way through two overtimes. The Huskies took over in the shootout, though, as Anne Jeute and Chrissy Davidson both connected for UConn while Huskies keeper Sarah Mansfield denied all four Tar Heel shooters.
“To go into shootouts there’s a winner and a loser, and that’s what stinks about sports,” North Carolina midfielder Emily Wold said. “It could be great if you’re the winner and come out on top. For us, it was a disappointing loss and it hurts. But...congratulations to UConn. “
The Huskies (20-4) will take on Duke (17-6) in the championship game Sunday at 4 p.m.
In previous years, games that weren’t decided after two overtimes were settled by penalty strokes — players taking shots on goal from seven yards out. The shootout, introduced this season, allows players to dribble towards the goal from 25 yards out before making a play within eight seconds.
The new format is a boon to aggressive goalkeepers, and UConn has one of the best in Mansfield, a two-time All-America who repeatedly rebuffed challenges by Tar Heel snipers. Mansfield forced Wold to shoot wide of the cage in the second shootout round, then batted Loren Healy’s flip shot out of the air á là Shaquille O’Neal in the third.
“I just tried to keep my head calm, and tried not to remind myself that this was to get into the national championship game because then I’d start panicking,” Mansfield said. “So I just tried to keep clear thoughts and just react to the ball.”
Emma Bozek was finally able to beat Mansfield when she dribbled around the Huskies netminder in the fourth shootout round. But in a final bit of Tar Heel frustration, the ball skipped off her stick and out of bounds and she streaked in front of the empty cage.
“That’s just the nature of sports,” Sheally said. “It didn’t fall our way this time, unfortunately.”
Craddock’s goal rallied the Tar Heels from a 1-0 halftime deficit and was the highlight of a strong second half in which North Carolina outshot UConn 7-0 and had five corners to the Huskies’ one.
But the Huskies controlled play through both extra periods, firing off eight shots while the Tar Heels didn’t manage any over the 30 overtime minutes.