The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday March 20th

UNC field hockey outlasts Wake Forest, 3-2, to advance to ACC Tournament semifinals

<p>Center back Ashley Hoffman (13) rears back for a shot against Davidson on Tuesday night in Durham.</p>
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Center back Ashley Hoffman (13) rears back for a shot against Davidson on Tuesday night in Durham.

After being named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year on Wednesday, Ashley Hoffman continued to prove her worth Thursday.

The All-ACC first team selection led her team in more ways than one in the No. 6 North Carolina (14-4, 3-3 ACC) field hockey team's 3-2 ACC tournament quarterfinal win over No. 13 Wake Forest (12-7, 3-3 ACC).

Hoffman’s performance showcased the fact that she is one of the best players in the country. Offensively, the junior from Mohnton, Pa., was the spark plug that helped the Tar Heels storm out of the gate in the first half. She scored her team-leading 10th goal in the opening minutes of the game, gaining the momentum in UNC's favor early.

Her leadership on the young backline kept UNC’s defense composed in crucial moments, forcing Wake Forest players to either commit a turnover or take ill-advised shot attempts. Her presence as the anchor for the defense this season has been crucial to the Tar Heels’ success, and it will continue to be through postseason pay.

The Tar Heels lost their momentum for a short while, though. Wake Forest forward Anne van Hoof finished off the equalizing goal after a penalty corner in the 35th minute. 

UNC regained control of the game in the second half. Feline Guenther’s goal from the right side of the circle gave the Tar Heels the lead for good in the 47th minute, and then Marissa Creatore expanded that lead with a score off a deflection. 

Wake Forest kept the game interesting with its second score from a penalty corner by Jule Grashoff in the 65th minute, but the last minute resurgence from the Demon Deacons fell short.

The win offered redemption for one of UNC's single loss by more than one goal this season, when it lost 3-1 to Wake Forest in Winston Salem on Sept. 8.

And most importantly, the win means North Carolina is still in the mix for an ACC Championship. After knocking off the Demon Deacons, the Tar Heels have their sights set on another big tournament game.

UNC plays the No. 4 Virginia Cavaliers in the ACC tournament semifinals on Friday at noon. The game will be a rematch of last year’s ACC championship game, in which the Cavaliers came out on top with a 4-2 win. 

The Cavaliers will be looking for vengeance this time around after losing 4-0 to UNC in Charlottesville earlier this season. The loss was Virginia's worst margin of defeat of the season, and its only loss in conference play.

The game pits UNC's Hoffman against ACC Offensive Player of the Year Tara Vittese — an intriguing matchup that may influence who advances to the conference final.

As the Tar Heels look to find their way back to the Final Four for an eighth consecutive year, starting their postseason run with a solid victory is an ideal way to start of their November.


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