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The Daily Tar Heel

Field Hockey Team Compiles First Losing Record Since 1981

This year is the first time since 1982 the Tar Heels failed to make the NCAA tournament, compiling their first losing record since UNC coach Karen Shelton's first year in 1981.

The Tar Heels had to win the ACC tournament this weekend in order to qualify for the NCAA tournament. When they failed to do that, their season was over.

"We knew that it was going to be a fight through the ACCs or everything was over, and we had to leave everything on the field," senior co-captain Meredith Keller said. "It was a very emotional game for us, all 70 minutes. Just being in that pressure position, it was exciting."

For field hockey teams to make it into the NCAA tournament, they have to have a .500 record or better. The Tar Heels went into the ACC tournament this weekend 9-10.

"Well, I think that we all knew, but we never said anything to anyone before the game," senior co-captain Stephanie Fuller said. "We seniors, we never went and said, 'Look guys, we've got to be fired up.' We're not like that. I think everyone was like, 'Alright, this is it, it's do or die.'"

But that attitude wasn't enough to carry the Tar Heels through the game with Maryland on Friday -- they lost a hard-fought battle in overtime 3-2.

"What I'm most disappointed about is that this team's season is over," Shelton said. "We're not whining about the fact that we're not in the NCAA tournament, because we know the rules.

"It's almost, and I hate to say it because it does sound a little whineyish, but they've been incredibly unlucky. I've never had a season quite like this, and I feel bad for my seniors that don't get another chance. I told the team that I was so proud. I've had better records, but I've never had a better team."

Seniors Fuller, Keller and Amy Tran, who in the past four years have won a regular season ACC title and played in an NCAA final, lost to Old Dominion for the national title in 2000.

"I had three great seniors," Shelton said. "I thought Meredith was the player of the year for us, great leadership, great skill level."

Keller started all 86 games in her UNC career, scoring 17 goals and earning 1999 ACC Rookie of the Year honors.

Fuller scored a total of seven goals as a defensive back and played in 58 games as a Tar Heel.

Tran started all but one game at UNC and was named an All-America in 2000 She ended her UNC career with a 1.35 goals against average and 22.5 shutouts.

But even though their collegiate careers ended before the NCAA tournament began this year, the seniors were happy to go out in such an exciting game.

As Fuller said, "It was one of the funest games I've ever played because we had so much pressure on us to win, and we played so well, and I mean, it didn't fall our way, but it was really one of the most exciting games I've played in in my whole entire career."

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