WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – For the first time in the history of ACC field hockey, the Virginia Cavaliers are league champions.
Four different players scored for Virginia and the Cavalier defense held strong as Virginia (15-7) defeated North Carolina, 4-2, in the 2016 ACC Field Hockey Championship game at Wake Forest’s Kentner Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The title is the first in program history for Virginia, the conference’s automatic qualifier for the NCAA Tournament. The sixth-seeded Cavaliers become the lowest-seeded team to win the tournament in the event’s history.
“It’s amazing to see their smiles and their tears of joy and you really see how much it means to them,” said Virginia coach Michele Madison. "To see the hard work and sacrifice to build the belief, because it’s hard to have the belief when you’ve never done it before. They found it somewhere deep inside to believe everything was possible.”
The Tar Heels fall to 17-5 on the season and will await the release of the NCAA Tournament bracket on Sunday night.
After being held without a shot for over eight minutes early in the first half, Virginia’s Erin Shanahan found the back of the cage to open the scoring. The fourth goal of the season for the freshman striker came off a corner.
With just over 12 minutes remaining before halftime, Gab Major grabbed a loose ball in the circle and fired it past Wake Forest’s Carrera Lucas for her ninth of the year to equalize the game at 1-1.
Izzy McDonough regained the lead for the Cavaliers four minutes later for her third of the season.
Anzel Viljoen, who did not score a goal during the regular season, scored her second of the tournament to extend the Cavalier lead early in the second half. The freshman inserted a corner to Tara Vittese at the top of the circle, slid towards the goal and knocked in the pass back from Vittese to push it to a 3-1 Virginia lead.
Lauren Moyer brought the Tar Heels back within one with just under 10 minutes remaining. After North Carolina pulled goalkeeper Alex Halpin in favor of a kicking back, Moyer launched a shot from the top of the circle after a penalty corner and off of a Virginia defender into the goal. The score was her fourth of the tournament and 21st of the year.
Just over two minutes later, Lucy Hyams provided insurance for the Cavaliers when she converted on a penalty corner to push the lead to 4-2.
Carrera Lucas made six saves in the win, while Halpin stopped three for the Tar Heels.
Virginia scored a tournament-record 13 goals over three games played, surpassing the previous record of 10.