ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine field hockey team turned in an impressive performance against perennial powerhouse the University of North Carolina in front of a crowd estimated at 657 Sunday morning but the talented Tar Heels emerged with a hard-fought and deserved 3-1 triumph.
Senior forward Lauren Moyer scored her team-high fifth and sixth goals of the season in the first half of the entertaining affair and redshirt freshman Catherine Hayden scored an important insurance goal in the second half as the Tar Heels improved to 6-2 and erased the memory of a 2-1 loss at Boston College on Friday.
Junior Maddy Cummings from Belfast scored her team-leading 10th goal for the Black Bears to pull Maine into a short-lived 1-1 tie 17:46 into the first half but but Moyer scored the game-winner just 2:35 later.
Maine, ranked No. 20, fell to 6-2.
Belgrade senior left back and former Miss Maine Field Hockey Kristy Bernatchez, who played at Oakland’s Messalonskee High School, had a successful homecoming as she teamed with U.S. Under-21 National Team standout Julia Young to marshall an outstanding back line.
Bernatchez said Maine is “a lot more skilled than in the past. They’ve come a long way.”
Maine entered the game averaging 4.7 goals per game but the swarming Tar Heels limited their scoring chances.
UNC had a 10-6 edge in shots at goal and an 8-3 advantage in penalty corners.
Shannon Johnson made two saves in the first half and Alex Halpin wasn’t required to make one in the second half for the Tar Heels.
Emily Corbett made one save in the first half and Emma Cochran had two in the second half for the Black Bears.
UNC parlayed its superior speed and stick skills into a decided edge in possession but Maine, led by sophomore back Samantha Wagg, defended admirably and generated some dangerous attacks from time to time.
“Maine gave us everything we could handle. I think Maine is going to have a great season,” said UNC Hall-of-Fame coach Karen Shelton.
“They’re a very physical and fast team. I was proud of the way our kids handled it,” she added.
Maine coach Josette Babineau said they haven’t faced a team of North Carolina’s caliber yet this season and felt her team played a “good game.”
She said they devised a conservative defensive game plan to go with their own attacking flair “and the girls adapted very, very well. We hit a couple crossbars. I just wish we had made it 2-2 going down the stretch instead of it getting to 3-1.”
With the Tar Heels leading 2-1 early in the second half, Maine’s Danielle Aviani dashed into the circle and unleashed a powerful reverse stick shot that beat Halpin only to hit the crossbar.
“I’m a little sick about that,” said senior Aviani, who was pleased with her team’s performance.
“North Carolina is an awesome team. They’re very quick, they connect so well. But we definitely stood our ground. It was good for us to play them. It will definitely boost our confidence going into conference play,” she added.
Moments later, Hayden extended the lead off the rebound of a Gab Major shot. It was her second of the year.
Wagg nearly made it 3-2 off a penalty corner with three minutes left but her blistering shot slipped just wide of the far post.
Moyer opened the scoring off a penalty corner as her shot from the top of the circle deflected past Corbett after Major inserted it to Young.
Cummings tied it when Wagg’s shot off a penalty corner ricocheted to her at the far post and she tapped it past Johnson.
Moyer’s game-winner also came off a penalty corner as she freed herself just inside the circle along the right side and converted an Emma Bozek pass with a well-placed shot inside the near post.