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The Daily Tar Heel

Field Hockey Awaits Opponent

North Carolina field hockey coach Karen Shelton has a saying she drills into the heads of her players.

"(Shelton) always says, `Our most important game is our next game,'" sophomore goalkeeper Amy Tran said.

That means UNC's most important game is Friday at 7 p.m., when the team plays in the first round of the ACC tournament.

After going undefeated in league play, UNC earned the No. 1 seed and a game against either Duke or ninth-ranked Virginia.

UNC won't find out who its semifinal opponent is until the Blue Devils and the Cavaliers battle at

2 p.m. today at Artificial Turf Stadium.

If Tran has her way, the Tar Heels will play the Cavaliers. Tran's selection is surprising, considering Duke's squad hasn't defeated the Tar Heels since 1981.

"We kind of struggled with Duke (in the regular season), so I'd rather we play Virginia," said Tran, who finished the regular season with seven shutouts.

UNC opened its season with a 3-0 defeat of Duke on Aug. 26. But the Tar Heels had trouble putting Duke away when the game counted toward ACC standings, getting a 2-1 victory Oct. 1.

The Cavaliers have also been on the losing end of both of their contests with the Tar Heels. UNC stopped Virginia by scores of 3-1 and 3-0 during the season.

Shelton doesn't care which team it is. She just wants her team to play well and to not overlook Virginia or Duke.

"I think when you're like our team and you've earned the No. 1 seed - we didn't want to play Maryland, we didn't want to play Wake Forest - there's a tendency to overlook this team," Shelton said.

Even before the Tar Heels play in the semifinals, they know whom they could face in the championship game. Wake Forest defeated defending NCAA champion Maryland during the regular season and earned the No. 2 seed.

"We're happy we had the No. 1 seed because Wake and Maryland will knock each other out," UNC senior forward Kristen McCann said.

McCann hopes the Tar Heels make it to Sunday's 3:30 p.m. title game and come face to face with Wake, a team that has suddenly become a big rival.

Last season, the Demon Deacons handed the Tar Heels a humiliating 6-1 loss in the ACC semifinals. McCann said that won't happen again and added that she thought the Tar Heels had a mental edge on the Deacons.

Both the Deacons and the Terrapins took the Tar Heels to overtime this year, but key goals from McCann sealed UNC victories in those games (4-3 and 1-0, respectively). The Tar Heels also handed Wake a 3-2 loss Sept. 30.

Those games gave Tran more work than usual. Maryland and Wake rely on a high-scoring offense to take control of games, but Tran said she's not worried about that.

"For the first time in my life, I feel like it's OK if I mess up and a goal scores because I know we'll score more than they will," Tran said.

For Shelton, getting to the title game is important, but she wants to see the Tar Heels play their best to get ready for the upcoming NCAA tournament.

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"I don't think we've been playing well," Shelton said. "I just want us to get to the championship game and play well - I don't care if we win or lose, just play well."

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