By Dalton Ray —
On Nov. 1, field hockey never won an ACC conference tournament game. By Nov. 5, the Cardinals were 70 minutes away from laying claim to their first-ever ACC title. U of L couldn’t grasp the coveted trophy, falling 1-0 to North Carolina.
Over the last two years, U of L has defeated UNC in the regular season, but dropped the post season match.
In the latest addition, the Tar Heels used efficient offense and ball control to keep their distance from the Cardinals.
In the 18th minute of the game, UNC’s Malin Evert scored on a penalty corner. The shot crept by Louisville’s Ayeisha McFerran, who was coming off a career game against Duke.
Over the remaining 52 minutes, the Louisville offense appeared to be fighting against quicksand. U of L couldn’t hold possessions and only registered four shots with three coming in the second half.
Coach Justine Sowry said the team’s youth showed against an experienced team in North Carolina.
“I’m disappointed we couldn’t get a goal in the back of the net,” Sowry said. “We’re young. Even right up to the last five minutes, we didn’t quite know how to handle those moments.”
All four of Louisville’s shots were on goal, but North Carolina’s Amanda Hendry sent them all away. UNC sent in 13 shots with six on target, leading McFerran to have five saves.
Once U of L gained possession, they struggled to enter the shooting circle. The Tar Heel defense kept Louisville on the premier, restricting the scoring opportunities.
The Cardinals had a chance to knot the game up late on a penalty corner with under 10 minutes remaining. Marisa Martin Pelegrosa Sent the pass in, but the chance was squandered with an errant pass.
Sowry praised UNC’s experience and skill after the loss. She said her team followed their game plan, but came up short in areas.
“They were able to retain possession. Even with that, I thought we did a good job of taking away their midfielders — No. 21 and No. 22 — out of the middle of the pitch,” Sowry said. “They’re skillful. In one-(verse)-one contests, we showed that we’re youthful.”
Sowry added she expects her young team to build from this platform and expects to see payoffs in the NCAA tournament.
For the Cardinals, Carter Ayars, Alli Bitting and Ayeisha McFerran made the All-Conference Team.
U of L will face ninth-ranked Northwestern in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Nov. 11.
You can follow Dalton Ray on Twitter @dray5477.
Photos by Dalton Ray / The Louisville Cardinal