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GREENSBORO, N.C. – For the ninth straight year, at least two Atlantic Coast Conference field hockey teams have reached the NCAA Field Hockey Championship semifinals. North Carolina and Maryland will be competing this weekend for the 2011 national title which would be the conference’s tenth straight.
North Carolina, the top overall seed, defeated Michigan 5-1 last weekend to clinch its berth, while Maryland defeated No. 3 Syracuse 2-1 to earn its spot. The Tar Heels will play UConn Friday at 2 p.m., and the Terrapins will play No. 2 Old Dominion following the first game. Both games – and Sunday’s championship – will be played in Louisville, Ky., at Trager Stadium.
This is familiar territory for the Terrapins and Tar Heels, as the two squads have combined to win the last six national championships and 13 overall. The past two national championship games have pitted North Carolina and Maryland against each other, with the Tar Heels winning 3-2 in 2009 and the Terrapins getting revenge with a 3-2 double overtime victory last year.
North Carolina and UConn have yet to play this season, but this will be the third matchup between Maryland and Old Dominion. On Sept. 2, Maryland fell on the road, 4-0, and lost in the rematch on Oct. 14, 5-2, in College Park, Md. “I am honestly excited to play them,” said senior midfielder Jemma Buckley. “We are a different team than we were when we played them the past two times, and I feel like everyone is ready.”
Head coaches Karen Shelton of North Carolina and Missy Meharg of Maryland will both be attempting to win their seventh career national championships. “I am so proud of the team, and on behalf of the staff, it has been an incredibly interesting season,” said Meharg, who will be making her 14th appearance in the national semifinals. “To be in the position of playing our very best hockey at the most critical time in the year is such a tribute to the players.”
For Shelton, this weekend’s trip to Louisville will be her 16th final four appearances. "We're delighted to be playing in the Final Four and representing the ACC in Louisville this weekend, along with Maryland,” said Shelton. “For some of our players it's their third Final Four trip, and for others this is the first time they'll get to experience it. It's really a great time, and we know that Louisville is going to be a fabulous host. We can't wait to get there."
ACC teams have won nine straight national championships and 16 of the last 24.
All three games this weekend will be streamed live on the NCAA’s field hockey website, which can be found at http://www.ncaa.com/championships/fieldhockey/d1