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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC field hockey plays disjointed in 3-0 loss to Duke

Gab Major (27) attempts to get the ball away from Duke defenders. The Tar Heels fell to Duke 3-0. 

Gab Major (27) attempts to get the ball away from Duke defenders. The Tar Heels fell to Duke 3-0. 

The Tar Heels (13-4, 3-3 ACC) had already lost the game, trailing Duke (14-2, 5-1 ACC) by three goals with the clock rapidly approaching zero. But junior Gab Major organized the offense in one final attempt to salvage a goal out of the afternoon.

The ball zigzagged across the field and made it to senior back Kristy Bernatchez. She lined up the shot — a good one with pace — but Blue Devil goalie Sammi Steele made a brilliant diving save. It was her eighth of the afternoon, protecting the shutout in Duke’s 3-0 win to clinch an ACC regular-season title.

North Carolina’s offense isn’t used to days like this.

“You just try to get a lot of shots, put their defense under pressure and hope that the first will fall, and the others will come,” said redshirt senior Emma Bozek.

“And the first one didn’t fall today. But we have to get back to the drawing board this week.”

The shots came — North Carolina outshot the Blue Devils 11-10 on Saturday — but three of Duke’s shots found the back of the cage while none of the Tar Heels’ did.

“It was not a typical day for Carolina,” Head Coach Karen Shelton said. “We defended poorly, started slowly, I think too carefully. I think we were afraid to lose as opposed to trying to win the game. But it’s unusual for us to have a score like that — we don’t like it one little bit.”

On Sept. 25, North Carolina beat Duke 3-2 in Chapel Hill in a nonconference matchup. Senior captain Julia Young said the fact that Saturday’s game was on the road and that Duke adjusted after the last game were the differences.

“I think they just played a lot tougher than we did, and I think they learned from last game they had to be a little bit tougher on us,” she said.

“So I think they looked at our strengths and tried to get rid of them. And I think they did.”

With the loss, UNC earned the fifth seed in the ACC Tournament, which starts Nov. 3 in Winston-Salem. A win against Duke would have given the Tar Heels the No. 1 overall seed and an ACC regular-season championship, but the difference in seeding adds to the sting of the loss against a close rival.

“We just gotta do some soul searching and look to improve,” Shelton said. “I still think we are one of the teams, as is Duke, that can win a national championship. So our focus is to put this game behind us and move forward and look to get better.”

It’s Bozek’s job as a senior captain to rally her teammates after a tough loss. She said North Carolina can still accomplish a lot of its goals if the team keeps its belief.

“We can still be one of the contenders for an ACC title, we can still be one of the contenders for an NCAA title,” she said.

“We just have to go back, work hard over the next few weeks and believe that we can.”

@bauman_john

sports@dailytarheel.com

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