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Nov. 4, 2012
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (theACC.com) - No. 1 North Carolina scored two goals late in the first half and rode a strong defensive performance to a 4-2 victory over third-seeded Maryland to win the 2012 ACC Field Hockey Championship.
"Winning an ACC championship in any sport is not easy to do," said North Carolina coach Karen Shelton. "Maryland played a very good game against us and it took everything that we had to handle them. I'm really proud of our back four, and I felt they had some key intercepts there that were momentum-changers in the game."
With the win, North Carolina (20-1, 5-0) clinched its 18th conference title, all under Shelton, and secured the league's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. The Tar Heels successfully defended the ACC title for the first time since 1997, also the last time they won the championship in Chapel Hill, N.C. They improved their tournament record to 40-12 overall and 14-4 against Maryland.
"The result is disappointing," head coach Missy Meharg said. "We beat a great Duke team, then a Virginia team and played 70 minutes of wonderful hockey. I'm proud of the Maryland team. We played the beginning of the first half and the second half absolutely brilliant, and then put ourselves in a position through some real tactical adjustments to tie the game up. North Carolina is a very strong team. We look forward to being in a position to hopefully see them again at some point in the NCAA Tournament. Congratulations to North Carolina."
Maryland (16-5, 3-2) earned the first penalty corners of the game midway through the first period but was not able to cash in on three consecutive attemps. Terrapin goaltender Natalie Hunter then made a diving save to stop Kelsey Kolojejchick on a Tar Heel fast break a minute later to keep the game scoreless.
North Carolina got on the board first with a goal by Loren Shealy in the 29th minute. Charlotte Craddock drove down the right side and fired a cross through the box, and Shealy collected the rebound to give the Tar Heels the lead.
"I was just at the right place at the right time on the far post," said Shealy. "It is something we have worked on all season. It was good to get on the board and push the momentum in our favor."
Kolojejchick scored her 14th of the season with 18 seconds remaining in the first period. The junior hit the post, grabbed her own rebound, and did not miss on the second opportunity.
The Terrapins held the nation's top offense to just two shots through the first 25 minutes of the game, but the Tar Heels found success through their fast break offense and had eight shots in the last ten minutes. Maryland, after finding chances early in the period, did not register a shot over 29 minutes spanning the end of the first half through the start of the second period.
Freshman Sarah Sprink got the Terrapins back into the game with a goal off a penalty corner in the 50th minute. The score, her fourth of the weekend, tied the tournament record held by three former players. The Terrapin penalty corner unit just missed evening the score minutes later, when Sprink ripped a shot off goaltender Sassi Ammer and Jill Witmer misfired on the rebound.
Craddock pushed the lead back to two goals at 3-1 in the 58th minute. The sophomore led the Tar Heel counterattack down the right side and launched a cross into the box that deflected off of Maryland defender Harriet Tibble into the net.
Maryland got back into the game with a goal with under two minutes remaining when Jill Witmer deflected a Katie Gerzabek shot over a sprawling Ammer to make the score 3-2. Shealy then scored her second of the game and third of the tournament with an empty net to clinch the championship for the Tar Heels.
North Carolina back Caitlin Van Sickle was named Tournament Most Valuable Player for her defensive performance in the two Tar Heel victories.
"It's an honor [to be named MVP], but winning the championship is more important," said Van Sickle. "I wouldn't have been able to do the things I do without any of my teammates out there. The championship is a lot more important than individual awards."
North Carolina outshot Maryland 17-12 and both teams earned seven corners.
Ammer improved to 18-1 on the season with four saves, and Hunter made eight saves in the loss.
2012 Field Hockey All-Tournament Team
Emma Plasteras, Boston College
Abby Hassinger, Duke
Katie Robinson, Virginia
Anna Kozniuk, Wake Forest
Jill Witmer, Maryland
Megan Frazer, Maryland
Sarah Sprink, Maryland
Emily Wold, North Carolina
Cailtin Van Sickle, North Carolina (MVP)
Loren Shealy, North Carolina
Kelsey Kolojejchick, North Carolina