But before the Tar Heels could even focus on Duke, they had to take care of business with the Orange (8-1, 2-1 ACC) — which beat UNC in that title game in 2015.
After scoring three goals in two games last weekend, Lauren Moyer kept her goal-scoring streak going against Syracuse.
The forward’s first goal came with the Tar Heels down a goal late in the second half. The senior smashed the ball into the cage off a brilliantly performed corner.
“Execution was key for this game,” Moyer said.
Her goal swung momentum in the Tar Heels’ favor, allowing UNC to take a 1-1 tie into the half.
Ten minutes into the second half, the Orange took the lead from the Tar Heels once more. But again, it was Moyer who would come through with the equalizing goal for UNC in the 50th minute.
“She’s an emotional leader, and a strong player.” Shelton said. “She’s no nonsense, and she really wants to win.”
Moyer’s second goal gave North Carolina the momentum for the rest of the game.
The Tar Heels attacked throughout the rest of regulation and both overtime periods, peaking when forward Malin Evert scored in the second overtime to seal the 3-2 victory.
But on Sunday, UNC once again faced an early deficit.
A Duke goal less than three minutes in changed North Carolina’s playing style. The disruption hampered the UNC attack and the Tar Heels went into halftime down 1-0 — with only two shots in the first 35 minutes.
The second half went in Duke’s favor early. But for a three-minute stretch, it was all Eva van’t Hoog for UNC.
The sophomore’s first goal of the game was dazzling. She flashed elusive stick work in the Blue Devil box to juke two defenders en route to a clinical finish into the cage.
“It was a great pass, and I was just looking for time to shoot,” van’t Hoog said.
But she wasn’t looking for anything before her second goal — as she couldn’t even see the net when she prepared to shoot.
It was a strategy the team had worked on in practice: Create chances near the goal, whether you can see it or not.
“I just knew I needed to find an opening ...” van’t Hoog said. “I was just shooting toward the goal and not really thinking.”
It worked on Sunday, as van’t Hoog’s shot rolled right in between the legs of the Duke goalie to give the Tar Heels a lead they would not relinquish.
An insurance goal from first-year Eef Andriessen iced the cake for the Tar Heels, completing the 1-2 sweep that could define UNC’s season.
“They now know that they belong with the elite in the country,” Shelton said.