The Daily Tar Heel

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Thursday January 20th

Tar Heels Dominate Duke to Capture 13th ACC Title

DURHAM - In an ACC women's soccer season wrought with upsets and surprises, one thing remained constant.

North Carolina, which lost a team-record three regular-season conference games, captured its 13th conference championship in the 14 years of ACC women's soccer competition.

The third-seeded Tar Heels beat an overmatched Duke squad

4-0 in the ACC tournament final Sunday in front of 5,273 fans at Koskinen Stadium.

UNC has earned a first-round bye in the NCAA Women's College Cup. It will play a second-round game Saturday or Sunday at Fetzer Field against the winner of the Liberty-Wake Forest game.

Even though North Carolina (16-3) has captured 13 ACC titles, this tournament win - UNC's 12th straight conference title - means a little bit more to the Tar Heels.

"We're thrilled to be conference champions again, especially in light of the season where we took some hits," UNC coach Anson Dorrance said. "I'm pleased not just because we won, but because we played tremendously well."

The fifth-seeded Blue Devils (13-7-1) upset top-seed Clemson 1-0 on Friday in the semifinals. Duke's reward was playing a Tar Heel team trying to dispel rumors that its dynasty is crumbling.

"We did feel like we had to prove something," tournament MVP Meredith Florance said. "There were a number of comments writing us off, and we just needed to come together and show the country that we can play."

Sunday, as during the entire tournament, UNC played like the UNC of old. The Tar Heel forwards pressured the Duke defense into several turnovers, one of which led to the first goal of the game.

In the 14th minute, Florance - who finished the tournament with three goals and two assists - took control of a loose ball 40 yards from the goal and slid a through ball for Alyssa Ramsey. Ramsey raced past the defense and converted from 10 yards to give UNC a 1-0 lead.

"It's so hard to replicate the pressure that North Carolina is capable of putting you under," Duke coach Bill Hempen said. "It's not something you can talk about; you have to see it and feel it."

The Tar Heels kept their attacking pressure up and added to their lead seven minutes later.

Florance, after receiving a left-wing cross from Anne Remy, sent a low cross to the top of the 6-yard box, where Jordan Walker was able to get a foot on the ball.

Walker, who only recently entered the starting lineup after Susan Bush's season-ending knee injury, scored her third goal of the season and second of the tournament. She also added two assists during the weekend.

"Jordan Walker was supposed to be (Laurie) Schwoy's apprentice this season," Dorrance said. "For that young apprentice to come out, start for us and lead us and organize us - what a credit to a great kid."

UNC scored twice more in the second half. Kalli Kamholz was open at the back post on a Jena Kluegel corner kick and hit an easy header to give the Tar Heels a 3-0 lead in the 52nd minute.

In the 78th minute, Ramsey and Walker played a give-and-go down the left wing, with Ramsey getting behind the defense. Her cross found Remy, who, after making a 60-yard run down the right side, scored on a diving header.

"Their team works unbelievably well together," Duke midfielder Kim Daws said. "They definitely wanted to come and show everybody what they are: Carolina."

Overshadowed this season by the offense, which has averaged 4.37 goals per game, the UNC defense allowed just one shot each to Duke and Florida State, a 3-0 semifinal loser to North Carolina.

The defense seems to be coming together at the time of the year when it matters most.

"We're becoming more organized and more confident," defender Julia Marslender said. "We're working together, and we've improved as our organization has gotten better."

The Sports Editor can be reached at sports@unc.edu.



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