Heck's shootout goal, Kahn's save give Tar Heels NCAA field hockey title, 2-1 over Northwestern

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — Ryleigh Heck scored in the sixth round of a shootout to lift defending champion North Carolina to a 2-1 win over Northwestern on Sunday in the NCAA Division-I field hockey championships, the 11th title for the Tar Heels.

The game was a rematch of last year's championship, won by the Tar Heels 2-1, a game that marked the end of Karen Shelton's 42-year run as the coach and the fourth title for senior Erin Matson. Matson is now the Tar Heels coach and the championship was played in Karen Shelton Stadium.

“There are no words for this," Matson said. "I thought being on the field, rushing to celebrate with your teammates was great. Then we hoisted the trophy with the ACC championship a couple weeks back and I thought that was great seeing it as a coach.

"Nothing tops a national championship on your home field. ... It's special.”

Northwestern beat the Tar Heels for the 2021 championship. North Carolina is now 11-11 in title games.

“It doesn’t get any better than a national championship and a sudden death shootout,” Matson said. “I’m so proud of our girls. They’re so happy, they wanted it so badly. Incredible day. I’m speechless.”

After second-seeded Northwestern (21-2) scored on the first two rounds of the shootout the Wildcats couldn't get another shot past Maddie Kahn, a graduate transfer from Lehigh. Before Heck's winner, Kahn stopped Peyton Halsey, who had scored a goal for Northwestern in the first round of the shootout, as did Heck.

“She's been a rock for us all season long, she's the exact piece of the puzzle we needed," Matson said of her goalie. "She's just a brick wall. We have total confidence and trust in her... . To see her do it in a shootout, sold out stadium, national championship atmosphere, that's exactly why she is a Tar Heel for life now.”

After a quiet first half, with neither team getting a shot on goal, the action picked up in the second half.

Charly Bruder put the top-seeded Tar Heels (18-3) on top by squeezing a long shot off a corner between the post and Wildcats' goalie Annabel Skubisz early in the third quarter. Northwestern's Petyon Halsey tied it with a penalty stroke goal with 1:19 left in the quarter.

Both teams had chances with corners in the closing minutes of regulation but couldn't break through. Heck had a penalty stroke with 2:17 to go in the first overtime but Skubisz got a stick on the shot.

North Carolina outshot Northwestern 14-8 with Skubisz making five saves and Kahn three.