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The Daily Tar Heel

Tar Heels Upset No. 4 Virginia

During those three losses -- against Duke, Maryland and Johns Hopkins -- the Tar Heels struggled defensively, allowing 11.3 goals per game.

Against the fourth-ranked Cavaliers, UNC found the remedy for its defensive ills: keeping possession of the ball and thus limiting Virginia's offensive chances.

The Tar Heels successfully employed a patient, ball-control offense to help fuel a stifling defensive effort as they upset Virginia 7-5.

The win was only UNC's second victory against an ACC opponent in its last 20 games. The victory also snapped a six-game losing streak to the Cavaliers, including a 17-16 ACC tournament loss last year.

"This is a huge win for our players," UNC coach John Haus said. "We haven't had any ACC success or beaten any top-10 teams, so we accomplished those two goals today."

Jeff Sonke, UNC's senior All-ACC performer, said: "This win means a hell of a lot to us. In the seniors' four years here, it is the first win against these guys."

The five goals allowed was the fewest the Tar Heels had given up in a conference game since the 1992 season when they beat Virginia 14-5.

North Carolina junior goalie Kris Blindenbacher, who started for the first time in six games, recorded 22 saves -- one short of the career high he set against Johns Hopkins last April -- and snagged eight ground balls.

While the North Carolina defense was suffocating, the offense's lack of turnovers and slow tempo greatly contributed to UVa's inability to score. When the Cavs did control possession, they often appeared impatient and frustrated and were prone to taking bad shots.

"The biggest thing for us today was that we didn't turn the ball over," Haus said. "It was critical for us that we controlled the ball and took high percentage shots. We didn't force things, and that let us control possession."

While UNC (5-4, 1-2 in the ACC) took a patient approach on the offensive end, it was by no means stagnant.

Five separate players -- Bobby Gormsen, Mac Hammer, Sonke, Steven Will and Lance Zimmerman -- scored for UNC, with Sonke and Will posting two goals apiece.

It was Sonke's and Will's second goals, scored late in the game, that put the Tar Heels ahead for good.

Tied at four apiece with 7:20 remaining in the game, Will took a feed from Andy Jonas and wrapped a shot around the cage past goalie Tillman Johnson to give UNC a 5-4 lead.

Then, after a swarm of Tar Heels thwarted a near-Virginia goal with 6:33 remaining, UNC controlled the ball for more than three minutes. The Tar Heels lost the ball, but quickly regained possession, culminating in a Sonke score with 2:18 remaining.

"If you let them hang around for so long, they are going to come back and win," Virginia attackman Conor Gill said. "They were searching for a win."

Indeed, the Tar Heels were.

With their postseason hopes already hanging in the balance, the UNC players, especially the seniors, realized the importance of this game.

"We felt really positive before the game," Sonke said. "It was the first time in a long time that we felt good before a game. We had a great week of practice, and the seniors had a talk before the game about how we need to start playing now. We can start making something of this season."

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