Tar Heels field hockey topples top-5 team Virginia


Senior defender Caitlin Van Sickle sends a pass up field. Van Sickle scored the game-winning goal in overtime to keep North Carolina’s ACC record perfect

With eight minutes remaining in regulation of the No. 2 North Carolina field hockey team’s win against No. 5 Virginia on Saturday, UNC was down 2-1 and looking at its first ACC loss of the season.

But coach Karen Shelton called a timeout and made an unorthodox move. She pulled goalkeeper Sassi Ammer and replaced her with an extra attacking player.

The gamble paid off.

Four minutes later, forward Charlotte Craddock netted the tying goal.

The goal forced overtime, and six minutes into the sudden-death period, senior defender Caitlin Van Sickle scored the golden goal to defeat the Cavaliers 3-2.

“That’s just kind of the role that I play on the team,” Van Sickle said. “They tell me to go forward and to be attacking, so I have to have an equal balance. But I am a defender first. That’s my main focus. And if I’m able to contribute on the attacking side, then that’s a bonus.”

The win was UNC’s (15-1, 4-0 ACC) first against a top-5 team in 2012.

“Sometimes we have track meets, sometimes we have chess matches,” Shelton said. “Today was a chess match.”

The Tar Heels made the first move, netting a goal in the fifth minute. Sophomore forward Loren Shealy’s stick connected with a pass rocketed into the circle by Van Sickle to put UNC on the board.

But only one more goal was scored in the first half. Virginia (13-3, 2-1 ACC) scored in the 22nd minute when Michelle Vittese found the back of the net on a set play generated from a penalty corner.

Despite a low-scoring first half, both teams had numerous scoring opportunities. Virginia took six shots, with five of them on target. Eight of UNC’s 11 shots were on frame.

A dominating performance by both goalies prevented more balls from rolling across the goal line. Ammer finished the game with a career-high nine saves. Virginia’s Jenny Johnstone recorded a season-high 11 saves.

“I’ve never made that many saves at UNC,” Ammer said. “We had a lot of shots on goal, and I think we just kept fighting. Our defense was pretty good, too.”

Both teams scored again in the second half, but this time, Virginia’s Rachel Sumfest struck first to put the Cavaliers ahead for the first time.

ACC Player of the Week Craddock scored the tying goal more than 20 minutes after Virginia pulled ahead.

“I think I would have felt good about this game even if we had lost,” Shelton said. “Both teams grew from it … They’re one of the teams that could win a national championship. I think we are, too.”

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