UNC extended its lead right before the end of the first half. After receiving the ball in transition, senior midfielder Sarah Ashley Firstenberg beat two Cavalier defenders before calmly finishing past Stearns to give the Tar Heels a two goal lead at the break.
The Tar Heels' momentum in the first half carried over into the second, where the team played efficiently and without any defensive miscues.
North Carolina was able to extend its lead in the 65th minute, as sophomore defender Julia Ashley got her head on a corner kick and converted. The ball took a deflection off a Cavalier defender before falling into the arms of Stearns, who was standing behind the goal line.
From there all UNC needed to do was hold on. And it did so, rarely allowing the Cavaliers a solid chance at goal for the final third of the game.
Who stood out?
Just three days earlier, Schultz scored the first goal of her college career against Florida State. And on Sunday, the first-year forward found herself in the right place at the right time once again.
Players don't always challenge the keeper when a back pass is made, but Schultz did and was able to score the first goal of the game for the Tar Heels.
On the back end, redshirt senior defender Hanna Gardner played no-nonsense soccer, consistently clearing the ball out of trouble and making some key tackles in the defensive third.
Gardner helped the Tar Heels to their second straight shutout and the third in their last four games.
When was it decided?
North Carolina held the momentum for the majority of the second half, but didn't put things out of reach until the 65th minute, when Ashley flicked the ball into the net after a corner kick.
That goal sucked the wind out of Virginia's sails, as the Cavaliers subbed in a new keeper just three minutes later. With a 3-0 lead, all the Tar Heels had to do was play mistake-free soccer, and they did so in the game's latter 25 minutes.
Why does it matter?
Before the game, North Carolina was 1-5-1 in ACC Tournament games since 2010, its only win coming in the 2013 quarterfinal against Boston College.
The win puts the Tar Heels into the tournament semifinal for the first time in three seasons, and should help keep the momentum rolling for the Tar Heels, who are now 7-1-2 in their last nine matches.
Where do they play next?
The Tar Heels will take on Notre Dame in the ACC Tournament semifinal at 5:30 p.m. on Friday. The semifinal will take place in Charleston, South Carolina.