“She’s a big-time player,” head coach Karen Shelton said about Hoffman. “She plays defense, she cleans up in the back so people know that if they do make a mistake, Ashley’s back there and on attack, we know that her drag flick was going to be important today and it was. So she’s our big-time player and our senior captain that leads both sides of the ball.”
Hoffman certainly led on both ends of the field on Friday, hustling on defense to intercept passes and limiting the Tribe to no shots on the day while adding a game-high six shots of her own.
In the midst of a perfect season, Hoffman feels this team is different, something that could benefit the Tar Heels in a quest to win the program’s first national championship since 2009.
“Everyone takes their own responsibility, and we kind of stick together rather than go apart and I think that’s different than any other team I’ve been on here,” Hoffman said.
Another different element of this year’s team is the addition of Matson, who leads the squad with 17 goals and was named ACC Offensive Player of the Year on Oct. 31. Matson considers Hoffman to be, “like an older sister” and looks up to her senior captain.
“We’ve just kind of grown up playing together through U-19, U-21, now the national team and she’s honestly a role model, a family member, a great teammate,” Matson said. “She’s just amazing.”
The two not only have chemistry off the field — but on it. Matson delivered assists on both of Hoffman’s goals to put away William & Mary and set the Tar Heels up for a potential rematch with No. 8 Michigan, a team the Tar Heels beat 5-1 in the inaugural game at their new complex this season.
A win on Sunday would send North Carolina to its 10th consecutive Final Four as Hoffman and her fellow seniors continue a final run at a national title.
Although Matson noted her focus was on Sunday, she admitted the team’s desire to have the seniors go out on a high note.
“I think every team wants the best possible year for their seniors and obviously ours would be to kind of go all the way,” she said.
If the Tar Heels can take care of the winner of Michigan and No. 10 Saint Joseph’s on Sunday, they will travel to Louisville for the Final Four, giving Hoffman potentially two more games to check that final box off a memorable career.