UNC field hockey rains on Wake Forest’s parade

Heading into this weekend’s game, the last four matchups between the North Carolina and Wake Forest field hockey teams had been decided by a single goal.

So the No. 2 Tar Heels (12-1, 2-0 ACC) anticipated a hard-fought game against the Demon Deacons (4-6, 1-2) on Saturday — and their expectation proved true.

UNC outlasted Wake Forest 3-2 on a rainy Saturday in Henry Stadium and came back on Sunday to defeat Virginia Commonwealth 6-1.

“ACC wins don’t come easy — ever,” head coach Karen Shelton said. “I thought both teams played hard and fought well against each other. Under the conditions, I couldn’t be happier.”

Although the Tar Heels battled Wake Forest to a 2-1 victory earlier in the season, only Saturday’s game counted in the ACC standings.

Slippery sticks and waterlogged shoes made it difficult for either team to maintain possession throughout the first half. But UNC netted two goals in quick succession in the last five minutes to take a 3-1 lead into the locker room.

In the second half, the Tar Heels leaned on their defense to fend off a scrappy Wake Forest team. UNC’s toughest test of the game came when back Meghan Drake was handed a yellow card, giving the Demon Deacons a one-player advantage for five minutes.

“That was our first ordeal of having to handle a man-down situation in a big game, and I thought we handled it very well,” Shelton said.

In another tightly contested game on Sunday, the Tar Heels used a strong second half to put away VCU (6-1).

Forward Sinead Loughran scored first on an assist from forward Charlotte Craddock.

“(Craddock) got some space at the top of the circle, and I just started running,” Loughran said. “She delivered a beautiful pass, and I just kind of backhanded it in.”

But despite outshooting VCU 18 to 1 and drawing seven more penalty corners than VCU in the first half, the Tar Heels had just a one-goal advantage at halftime.

Part of that offensive inefficiency could be attributed to a great performance from VCU goalkeeper Megan Botteri.

“Their goalkeeper played exceptionally well and made it difficult for us in the first half,” Shelton said. “Typically, if a goalkeeper is having a great day, we try to widen the goal by putting deflectors on either side so that we can shoot wide and then maybe tap it into an open goal.”

And that’s what the Tar Heels did in the second half.

Rejuvenated by Shelton’s adjustments, UNC scored four second-half goals, including two from Kelsey Kolojejchick.

“It was a tough weekend playing back-to-back games,” Kolojejchick said. “We really wanted to push ourselves to see how hard we could go in both games.”

Contact the desk editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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