Photo courtesy USA Field Hockey
Pictured: Ashley Hoffman
UNC has brought six field hockey titles back to Chapel Hill (1989, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2007 and 2009), while also frequenting the NCAA tournament more often than any other school. Since the tournament started in 1981, UNC has earned a postseason berth a record 33 times.
This continued success has made the Tar Heel talent well-known on a collegiate level. The awareness of Carolina field hockey is rapidly spreading on a national level -- due in part to Karen Shelton's program being a feeder to the national team.
From July 8-23, the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) played in the FIH Hockey World League Semifinal in South Africa. The national team clinched berths into both the FIH Hockey World League Final later this year and in the 2018 Hockey World Cup with a win over Japan on July 18, while also bringing the tournament trophy home with a shootout win over Germany -- and former Tar Heel Nina Notman -- on July 23.
Of the 18 rostered players on the national team in South Africa, seven had ties to UNC. Former Tar Heels Katelyn (Falgowski) Ginolfi, Jackie (Kintzer) Briggs, Lauren Moyer, Loren Shealy, Caitlin Van Sickle and Julia Young join junior Ashley Hoffman to comprise 39 percent of the USWNT roster.
A two-time All-American (2009, 2011) and a member of both the 2007 and 2009 championship teams, Ginolfi is a legend among UNC field hockey, and her number 23 is one of three jerseys retired for the program. In 2010, a concussion kept her out for the year, but she was still the team's captain during her redshirt season. She is a three-time Olympian, competing in 2008 (Beijing), 2012 (London), and 2016 (Brazil). She has the most caps-- an appearance in a game at an international level-- (252) among current members of the national team.
Following Ginolfi, Briggs is the second-most tenured Tar Heel on the national team. Briggs redshirted in 2006, then was a key piece in goal for UNC over her next four years. A two-time All-American (2009-10), Briggs was an alternate for the USA in the 2012 Olympics before earning starting honors for USA in Brazil last summer. Briggs is a vital cog for the USWNT, evidenced by the new hardware she won as the goalkeeper of the tournament in the FIH Hockey World League semifinal.
Van Sickle redshirted in 2008, but she was the stronghold on UNC’s defense from 2009-12. She and Ginolfi roomed together during her time in Chapel Hill, and together the duo helped bring the 2009 title back to Chapel Hill. Van Sickle is a two-time All-American (2010, 2011) and three-time ACC Player of the year (2010-12). She joined the USWNT in June 2016 to participate for the Hockey Champions trophy. Her solid play at the HCT led to her selection for the Olympic roster that summer, as well. In the Olympics, her goal against No. 3 Australia turned out to be the deciding factor in a 2-1 victory.
Shealy roamed the midfield for UNC from 2011-14 before starting her national team career in 2015. She was the 2013 Sports Illustrated Female College Athlete of the Year, because of her strong showing in both academics and athletics.
The pipeline from UNC field hockey to the national team is still going strong, as both Young and Moyer graduated and joined this year. Young was a defensive stopper for the Tar Heels during her time at UNC, while Moyer was a potent forward who enjoyed a huge 2016 in which she scored a team high 24 goals. The duo was part of a UNC core that went to four straight Final Fours, albeit without a title. Young was flanked on the back line last year by Hoffman, who has already started 50 career games in her first two seasons in Chapel Hill.
The next tournament for the USWNT is the Pan American Cup, which is held Aug. 3-14 in Pennsylvania. It should come as no surprise that the roster will again be plastered with light blue.
Of the eighteen roster spots, six players on the national team roster (33 percent) will be occupied by Tar Heels. It was nearly seven, but an injury to Van Sickle in South Africa caused her to be left off the roster.
The US women's field hockey team has not medaled in the Olympic since 1984. But with this strong core of Tar Heels ready to contribute, 2020 could be a different story.