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Nov. 4, 2012
CARY, N.C. (theACC.com) -- There is little doubt that Virginia will head into the NCAA Women's Championship playing its best soccer of the 2012 season.
The fifth-seeded Cavaliers claimed the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship title in convincing fashion on Sunday afternoon, blanking second-seeded Maryland, 4-0, before 1,227 at WakeMed Soccer Park.
Tournament MVP Morgan Brian assisted on the first goal and scored the second for Virginia (16-4-1), which claimed its second ACC championship and its first since 2004.
"I'm so happy for this team," Virginia coach Steve Swanson said. "We've improved steadily as the year has gone by, and we've become a better and better team. Not only am I happy about the result, that we can call ourselves ACC Champions, but we played some great soccer this weekend as well."
Virginia will enter the NCAA Tournament with five straight wins against ranked opponents, the longest such streak in school history. The Cavaliers outscored those five opponents by a combined 19-3. Perhaps just as impressively, Virginia set another program first by defeating three fellow top 10 opponents in the 2012 ACC Championship - No. 8 North Carolina in the quarterfinals, No. 2 Florida State in the semifinals and No. 7 Maryland in Sunday's title game.
That leaves the Cavaliers with high hopes of earning a No. 1 regional seed when NCAA pairings are announced Monday at 4:30 p.m. Maryland (13-6-2) is also hopeful of a high postseason seed following its solid overall showing in NCAA play.
"I think as we went through the season no one expected us to win and get the results we got," Maryland first-year coach Jonathan Morgan said. "I think the kids were able to play a little bit freer and a little bit more loose (during the regular season). Today I think we just got lost in the stage - the ACC Championship, a lot of young kids. I think we just got caught up in the moment."
Virginia, which delivered four-goal performances in both Sunday's final and in Friday night's semifinal win over Florida State, forced the action from the start against the Terrapins. The Cavaliers got on the scoreboard in the 22nd minute of the opening half, when Gloria Douglas scored off assists from Caroline Miller and Brian.
The 1-0 lead stood up until halftime, and the Cavaliers put the match away with three scores in the final 45 minutes.
"I was a little nervous when we didn't convert on a couple of opportunities that we had in the first half because we were up 1-0 the last time (vs. Maryland during the regular season) and we let the lead slip away," Swanson said. "I think our players had that in the back of their minds and we did a good job of closing out the game." Brian scored off the rebound of her own first shot in the 53rd minute to push Virginia's lead to 2-0. It was the third goal and eighth point in two games for Brian, which entered Friday night's semifinal with four points for the season.
ACC Offensive Player of the Year Caroline Miller lined home a shot from 10 yards out off a pass from Danielle Colaprico to give the Cavaliers a 3-0 lead in the 65th minute. It was Miller's 16th goal of the season and marked her fifth straight game with at least one score.
"It's like all of your kid dreams coming true," said Miller, a senior from Rockville, Md. "I was thinking about it this morning how every kid dreams of playing in this game, and my dream came true today. I don't think there's a better way to go out, other than winning the national championship."
Freshman Makenzy Doniak closed out the scoring with just under five minutes to play, taking Kaili Torres' pass and scoring a breakaway goal for the final 4-0 margin.
With eight teams ranked among the top 25 of the most recent NCAA RPI, the ACC should be well-represented when the NCAA Championship field is announced on Monday. A record nine teams from the conference received bids last season, and Florida State, Duke and Wake Forest reached the Women's College Cup.
2012 ACC Women's Soccer All-Tournament Team
Morgan Brian, Virginia (MVP)
Caroline Miller, Virginia
Gloria Douglas, Virginia
Erica Hollenberg, Virginia
Emily Sonnett, Virginia
Becky Kaplan, Maryland
Domenica Hodak, Maryland
Hayley Brock, Maryland
Tiffany McCarty, Florida State
Dagny Brynjarsdottir, Florida State
Aubrey Bledsoe, Wake Forest