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Field Hockey to face toughest test yet

<p>Sophomore striker Paulie Peña passes to a teammate in a Sept. 4 3-1 win vs. Rider. </p>

Sophomore striker Paulie Peña passes to a teammate in a Sept. 4 3-1 win vs. Rider.

This Sunday, when Miami field hockey squares off against No. 4 North Carolina, it will be a battle of teams who haven’t yet lived up to expectations.

Coming into the year, both squads were expected to dominate. 

Miami, coming off its fourth consecutive Mid-American Conference (MAC) championship, was ranked No. 21 in the nation and ready to establish itself as a national competitor with one of the toughest schedules in recent history. 

And North Carolina, coming off of its third consecutive national championship, was ranked No. 1 and expected to run the table again.

But early in the 2021 season, both teams have struggled. Miami is 2-5 so far, after losing to top ten opponents like Northwestern, Connecticut and Virginia. 

Even more surprising is North Carolina’s start to the season. Despite returning many contributors from last year’s championship squad — including two-time national player of the year Erin Matson, considered by many to be one of the best players on the planet — the Tar Heels have looked beatable so far. 

UNC has started the season 3-3. They’ve looked like their old selves against inferior opponents; earlier this month, they routed Pennsylvania 9-1 and Drexel 7-1. But the Heels haven’t yet beaten a top team. They’ve fallen to new No. 1 Michigan, No.2 Iowa and No. 17 St Joseph’s.

The question: can the RedHawks regain some of what led them to be nationally ranked to start the season?

Before that question is answered, the team has to take care of business against their first MAC opponent, Appalachian State (2-3). Friday, the ’Hawks stop in Boone, N.C. to meet the Mountaineers at 3 p.m. before traveling to Chapel Hill Sunday to play No. 4 UNC at noon.

SCOUTING REPORT

GAME 1

Miami RedHawks vs. Appalachian State Mountaineers

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Faceoff: 3 p.m. Friday, September 17, at Adcock Field, Boone, N.C.

MIAMI REDHAWKS

Record: 2-5 (0-0 MAC)

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Player (position, class, key stats)

Claudia Negrete Garcia (striker, sophomore, 7 gp, 5 g, 0 a)

Lexie Nugent (midfielder, senior, 7 gp, 2 g, 0 a)

Morgan Sturm (midfielder, senior, 6 gp, 1 g, 1 a)

Isabele Parese (goalkeeper, junior, 7 gp, 71.7% save percentage)

APPALACHIAN STATE MOUNTAINEERS

Record: 2-3 (0-0 MAC)

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Player (position, class, key stats)

Sterre Molkenboer (midfielder, first-year, 5 gp, 2 g, 1 a)

Pauline Mangold (midfield, sophomore 5 gp, 1 g, 2 a)

Friederike Stegen (midfield, senior, 5 gp, 1 g, 2 a)

Addie Clark (goalkeeper, junior, 5 gp, 76.1% save percentage)

GAME 2

Miami RedHawks vs. No. 4 North Carolina Tar Heels

Faceoff: 12 p.m. Sunday, September 19, at Karen Shelton Stadium, Chapel Hill, N.C.

MIAMI REDHAWKS

Record: 2-5 (0-0 MAC)

No. 4 NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS

Record: 3-3 (0-0 ACC)

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Player (position, class, key stats)

Erin Matson (forward, senior, 6 gp, 9 g, 4 a)

Eva Smolenaars (midfielder, senior, 6 gp, 3 g, 3 a)

Cassie Sumfest (midfielder, senior, 6 gp, 4 g, 1 a)

Abigail Taylor (goalkeeper, first-year, 6 gp, 60.0% save percentage)

@jacksmerz

schmelj2@miamioh.edu

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