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COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Katie Ardrey and Elizabeth Stephens scored second half goals off of penalty corners as No. 1-seeded North Carolina topped third-seeded Duke, 2-1, Sunday afternoon at the 2011 ACC Field Hockey Championship Game. It marks the Tar Heels' 17th overall conference title and first since 2007.
With the victory, North Carolina improves to 20-1 and clinches the conference's automatic bid to the 2011 NCAA Division I Field Hockey Championship. Duke falls to 13-7 after reaching the title game for the first time since 2003.
After a tough defensive effort from both teams in the first half, North Carolina converted on two penalty corner chances after the break. Duke got on the scoreboard with six minutes left in the game, but the Tar Heels were able to protect their lead and the victory. The win was the 15th straight for the top-ranked team in the nation.
North Carolina controlled the possession throughout, generating 10 shots to Duke's three and earning seven penalty corners to zero for the Blue Devils.
"I am very happy with our team; I think we played some of our best hockey of the year," said North Carolina head coach Karen Shelton, who has led the Tar Heels to all 17 of their conference championships.
Katie Ardrey broke the scoring drought four minutes after halftime. After inserting the penalty corner, the junior from London, England took up position next to the cage and tipped in a Marta Malmberg shot for her fifth goal of the year.
Ten minutes later, Elizabeth Stephens scored on a penalty corner set up by Katelyn Falgowski and Ardrey, bouncing the shot over a sprawling Samantha Nelson, the Duke goalkeeper. The Falgowski assist was the 59th in her career, setting a new North Carolina record.
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"That is just an amazing honor. Especially with a program that has a legacy like UNC hockey does, it is a huge honor just to know that I was a part of it," said Falgowski, who was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player as a senior. "It is an awesome rivalry and [Duke] played awesome today. They brought their game and we had to step up. It is a great way for us to go out, winning an ACC championship."
With six minutes remaining in the game, Devon Gagliardi broke through the Tar Heel defense and passed across the circle to find Jessica Buttinger who knocked it in to get the Blue Devils on the board. It was her seventh goal of the year and second at the ACC tournament.
"It tells them that they love to play field hockey," said Duke head coach Pam Bustin on the late goal. "They play with a lot of heart and we're developing more and more belief every time we step on the field. I couldn't be more proud of how they fought until the very end and put themselves in a position to tie the game. We can build on that."
North Carolina improves to 28-12 all-time in conference tournament play, 17-2 in league championship games, and 12-1 against Duke in the tournament.
2011 Atlantic Coast Conference Field Hockey Championship All-Tournament Team
|Nicole Schuster||So.||M/F||Boston College|
|Katelyn Falgowski*||Sr.||M||North Carolina|
|Kelsey Kolojejchick||Jr.||M||North Carolina|
|Caitlin Van Sickle||Jr.||B||North Carolina|
|Meghan Dawson||Sr.||B||North Carolina|
|Kaitlyn Ruhf||Jr.||GK||Wake Forest|
*Tournament Most Valuable Player
More information on the 2011 ACC Field Hockey Championship can be found online at http://www.theacc.com/championships/11-acc-field-hockey-championship.html.