Mendonça’s Game-Winner Helps Field Hockey Upset No. 3 North Carolina

The final horn blew, but there was still one corner to be played out. The maroon jerseys stood inside the goal, while Carolina blue wrapped around the shooting circle. All Boston College had to do was get the ball outside the circle to end the game, but that is never an easy task. The referee blew her whistle and the ball was inserted. The maroon jerseys flew out of the cage and headed straight toward the ball. Shot. Diving save. Rebound. Diving save. Whistle. The players rose and looked toward the referee anticipating a call in their team’s favor. The referee pointed downfield, signaling a 16-yard hit for BC, giving the team possession and automatically ending the game.

No. 18 BC hosted No. 3 North Carolina for a competitive league matchup. BC would have to fight for the full 70 minutes to beat the top-ranked team. By diving for balls and curbing its opponent’s breakaway chances, BC triumphed. The Eagles took advantage of two chaotic offensive penalty corners to complete a come-from-behind upset with their 2-1 victory.

Pre-game jitters ran into the first half, causing both sides to struggle with ball possession. A few minutes into the game, BC (3-3, 1-1 Atlantic Coast) settled down and quickly took control by pressuring UNC’s defense inside the shooting circle. Yet every time it looked like the Eagles might get a shot off, the Tar Heels (5-2, 1-1) stripped them of the ball.

After 12 minutes of BC domination, the tables turned. UNC charged to goal. After narrowly scoring twice, UNC was awarded a penalty corner. The Tar Heels inserted the ball and made two crisp passes before Lauren Moyer missed wide. But they kept fighting. Ashley Hoffman fired from the top of the circle allowing Moyer to score a tip-in goal past Audra Hampsch.

Minutes later, the Eagles were once again pressuring the Tar Heels defense. After multiple free hits and a string of three corners, BC struck back. UNC’s defense read the insert perfectly and flew straight to the ball, causing the Eagles’ play to collapse. No one panicked. The ball was fired toward the goal and a swarm of Eagles flew to the rebound. Brigid Wood found the ball amid the chaos and sent it to the back of the net, making it a 1-1 game going into halftime.

The Tar Heels came out of the break hungry. After quickly storming down the field and pressuring the Eagles’ defense, UNC had a few looks on goal. BC struggled to possess the ball and transition downfield, allowing the Tar Heels to dominate on their offensive end. The Eagles pulled themselves together and denied UNC two offensive chances on penalty corners.

With 15 minutes remaining, the Eagles traveled downfield on a string of Tar Heel penalties and received a corner.

When setting up a corner, head coach Kelly Doton has one thing in mind.

“My philosophy is always to get the ball on cage,” she said. “Just give it the opportunity and if it’s not the initial shot, well maybe the rebound, we’ll have an opportunity to score then.”

Brittany Sheenan inserted the ball, and BC fired a shot from the top of the shooting circle. Once again, there was chaos in from of the net. Sticks were flying as each team jabbed at the ball. Chelcie Mendonça reeled the ball in and wrapped it around goalie Alex Halpin, giving BC a 2-1 edge.

This deficit spiked some energy in the Tar Heels. With 10 minutes remaining, UNC received a string of three corner and called a timeout. With a game plan in mind, the Tar Heels set up for their third attempt on goal. The Eagles were prepared and denied UNC once more.

With 3:58 remaining, the Tar Heels pulled their goalie. The extra player helped UNC put pressure on the offensive end and the decision resulted in a penalty corner after a BC foot fault with one minute remaining. The Eagles regained possession, but with 12 seconds left the Tar Heels stormed downfield and received a penalty corner.

With time expired, UNC had one more shot to score and send the game into overtime. The ball was inserted, and two shots were fired. Hampsch dove left and right in order to keep the ball outside her goal. A Tar Heel penalty inside the circle ended the game, handing the Eagles a 2-1 upset.

Doton believes BC won because of the team’s ability to deny UNC of a goal on all eight of its penalty corner opportunities.

“Our defensive penalty corner unit came through huge,” she said. “The type of corners that we saw on film, that Carolina can execute, was a big opportunity and those girls stepped up to the plate and did the task.”

Featured Image by Francisco Ruela / Heights Editor