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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC field hockey beats Duke, advances to NCAA championship match

The Tar Heels will vie for their seventh national title

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.

Goalkeeper Shannon Johnson anchored the Tar Heel defense in the games waning minutes, making key saves down the stretch to preserve UNC’s second consecutive shutout and propel the team into the national championship game.

Quotable 

“It was a great pickup for the team, and a good play, but I know everyone on the team would have made the same play if they had been in my situation.” — Bernatchez on her key save.

Notable 

North Carolina will look to win its seventh national title on Sunday. Old Dominion, which has won nine NCAA championships, and Maryland, which has won eight, are the only two programs with more national titles than UNC.

Three numbers that matter

11: With two goals on Friday, Evert has found the back of the cage 11 times this season.

6: UNC's 2-0 shutout of the Blue Devils marked its sixth shutout of the season.

3: Sunday's championship match between UNC and Syracuse will be the third meeting between the two teams this season. The Orange defeated UNC 4-2 on Sept. 12, and North Carolina seized a 2-1 overtime victory over Syracuse in the ACC Championship final.

What's next?

The Tar Heels will face No. 2 Syracuse in the NCAA championship match at 1 p.m. on Sunday in Ann Arbor, Mich. The game will be broadcast on ncaa.com. The Orange ended UNC's 2014 season, defeating the Tar Heels in the NCAA semifinals. 

@WBOD3

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