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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC field hockey loses chance at ACC title with 3-0 loss to Duke

In a defensive battle at Williams Field, the No. 4 North Carolina field hockey team (12-4, 3-3 ACC) fell to No. 2 Duke (14-2, 5-1 ACC) in a 3-0 contest. The game was closer than the scoreboard suggested, ultimately coming down to which team could convert its chances.

What happened?

Offense came at a premium in the opening stages of the game, as neither team could find a way to get the ball into the back of the cage. Midway through the first half, only three total shots had been put on goal. Valiant defensive efforts from both sides kept the match in a stalemate until Duke pushed across its first goal in the 25th minute. A second goal would follow shortly thereafter, giving the Blue Devils a 2-0 lead going into intermission.

The Tar Heels attacked vigorously in the second, but they couldn't find a way past the Duke defense. Another goal early in the second half pushed the lead to 3-0. North Carolina pulled goalie Alex Halpin in favor of another field player with 10 minutes remaining, but the Tar Heels could not muster enough offensive to catch the Blue Devils.

Who stood out?

The UNC defense played well, holding Duke to only 10 shots in the contest. North Carolina actually outshot Duke — recording 11 of their own — and Halpin logged five saves in the contest.

But eight Tar Heels failed to convert a shot on goal, leaving the offense with nothing to show for its efforts.

When was it decided?

The game was neck and neck for much of the game, with neither team consistently holding the ball in its offensive third. The Blue Devils' first goal of the half gave them an early edge, but Duke’s second tally of the half made it tough on the Tar Heels. Coming out of halftime with a two-goal deficit made it hard for UNC to play its style without pressing.

Why does it matter?

Earlier in the season, the Tar Heels defeated the Blue Devils, 3-2, in a nonconference match at home. But  this ACC matchup had much higher stakes — the No. 1 seed in the ACC tournament.

A win for the Blue Devils locked up the top seed of the tournament, while a victory for the Tar Heels would have put them in control of the conference. With the loss, UNC falls into the middle of the ACC standings.

Where do they play next?

The Tar Heels will travel to Lynchburg, Virginia to take on Liberty at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

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