The North Carolina field hockey team had advanced to the NCAA semifinals in each of the past two seasons only to lose in a penalty shootout.
But in Friday's semifinal contest against Duke, the second-seeded Tar Heels ensured their season lasted one more match.
In game that saw bitter rivals meet in the Final Four for the first time, top-ranked UNC defeated Duke 2-0 in Ann Arbor, Mich., to earn a place in Sunday's national title game.
During the regular season, the two teams waged a defensive battle, resulting in a 2-1 North Carolina win. Friday’s semifinal match played out in a similar fashion.
UNC struck first, as first-year forward Malin Evert found the back of the cage less than three minutes into the game to give the Tar Heels a 1-0 lead.
Duke attempted to tie the match throughout the first half, but could not get past UNC's back line. Led by vice captain Julia Young, the UNC defense maintained its 1-0 lead going into halftime while holding Duke to only two shots.
After intermission, the Blue Devils came out aggressive and gained steam with each attack. But that momentum did not last long.
One of the best scoring opportunities for Duke came in the 40th minute, when a cluster of players scrambled for a loose ball in front of the UNC goal. Just when a Blue Devil goal seemed inevitable, Tar Heel defender Kristy Bernatchez made a diving save at the goal line to prevent a goal.
The Tar Heels finally cleared the ball from their own circle a couple of minutes later, and with about 27 minutes left in the match, Evert scored on a pass from senior Casey Di Nardo to hand UNC a 2-0 lead.