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Sunday May 28th

UNC field hockey retains ACC title

	<p>Sophomore Loren Shealy celebrates her second goal of the game. Shealy scored on an empty net in the final minute to ice the game for <span class="caps">UNC</span>.</p>
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Sophomore Loren Shealy celebrates her second goal of the game. Shealy scored on an empty net in the final minute to ice the game for UNC.

When North Carolina took on Maryland in the ACC championship game Sunday, it was playing for its second consecutive ACC title and a perfect record against conference opponents.

But its seniors were playing for one more game at home.

“It’s like a dream come true,” senior Kelsey Kolojejchick said. “The fact that for the seniors, this was our last game, and if we were to win or lose, it could decide if we would have another home game, if we would host or not. Not knowing, it was really important for us to end on a good note.”

They did. UNC (20-1) defeated the Terrapins 4-2. And as one of the projected top four seeds in the NCAA tournament, the Tar Heels would be guaranteed to begin their quest for a national title next weekend at home in Henry Stadium.

Caitlin Van Sickle, a senior, earned the tournament’s MVP honors. Emily Wold, Loren Shealy and Kolojejchick were named to the ACC’s all-tournament team along with her.

“Without all the work that everyone puts in, I wouldn’t be able to do the things I do without any of my teammates out there,” Van Sickle said. “The championship is a lot more important than individual awards.”

Other than a UNC goal that was waved off for a foot foul, neither team presented much of an offensive threat until Maryland earned three straight penalty corners in the 13th minute and produced shots, though no goals, on all of them.

Charlotte Craddock ruled the right side of the field throughout the afternoon, streaking up the sideline and feeding the ball into the circle. Finally, in the 29th minute, Shealy rebounded and netted a Craddock cross that had struck a Maryland defender.

Kolojejchick scored in the 35th minute, just 18 seconds before halftime.

But if the first half was a validation of UNC’s strengths, the second half was a reminder of what it still has to work on.

Maryland’s Sarah Sprink scored on a penalty corner in the 50th minute, cutting the UNC lead to one.

Though she said she feels her team is of national championship-caliber, North Carolina coach Karen Shelton said UNC’s fast-paced play would need to be reined in moving forward.

“We had a lot of double turnovers, where we would come up with the ball, try to make a play and turn it right back over,” she said. “We want to play fast, we like to play fast, but you have to play with a little more precision. It does hurt you, because people are running in support. If you make a pass and it’s intercepted, you have to run in recovery.”

Fortunately for the Tar Heels, things still broke their way. A Maryland own goal negated Sprink’s effort and extended UNC’s lead, though Craddock was responsible for pushing the ball into the circle.

In the final minutes, the Terrapins pulled their goalkeeper and replaced her with an 11th field player. Shortly after, Maryland’s Jill Witmer closed the gap to 3-2. But Shealy’s open-net goal with 40 seconds left to play exposed the gambit’s risks.

The victory is sweet for UNC’s veterans, who remember losing to Maryland in the NCAA championship game two years in a row. But they’re still looking to get better.

“We’ve improved a lot, but I don’t think we’re exactly where we need to be,” Kolojejchick said. “But that’s great because we’ll peak right when it matters most.”

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