Within its realm of sports, redemption has been a recurring theme at North Carolina.
On Sunday, the No. 6 North Carolina field hockey team defeated No. 10 Louisville, 1-0, on the Cardinals' home field and effectively redeemed both a regular season loss to Louisville earlier in the regular season, as well as its ACC Tournament championship loss in 2016.
The victory gave UNC head coach Karen Shelton her 20th ACC Championship.
“It took a lot of focus, a lot of hard work and a lot of toughness,” Shelton said. “I’m completely proud of our team.”
Shelton reflected on the challenging road the Tar Heels (16-4, 6-3 ACC) had to traverse in order to earn this honor, beating three ranked opponents in the span of four days.
“This is a hard tournament to play in, let alone win,” Shelton said. “We had to do it one game at a time against three awesome opponents.”
After beating No. 13 Wake Forest and No. 4 Virginia respectively on consecutive days, Shelton had to prepare her team for a contest that was likely going to have limited opportunities against an opponent like Louisville (14-7-0, 6-3 ACC).
So after Malin Evert’s goal off a penalty corner in the 19th minute, the game came down to defensive discipline. The Cardinals were only able get four shots off and one penalty corner for the entire game.
“We talk about defense winning championships all the time,” Shelton said. “It is one of the things we take pride in.”
Over the course of the last four games for the Tar Heels, Evert has been on a scoring rampage. Since UNC’s regular season finale against Liberty, Evert has notched six goals. She's currently the team's sole leading scorer on the season with 11 goals.
Shelton attributes Evert's quickness and tenacity around the circle to being the factor that has made her so effective in games.
“She is so fast and she’s got really good size," Shelton said. "It is almost automatic when she gets the ball and she has an opportunity to eliminate her opposition."
Additionally, Evert’s ability to finish off penalty corners has become quite the weapon for the Tar Heels’ offensive front.
“It has been one of our main focuses,” Evert said. “That's been one of the reasons on why we have been scoring a lot.”
The Tar Heels have reclaimed conference title glory — and did so in redemptive fashion.
North Carolina found itself one win short of a national championship in its past two seasons. And in the coming weeks, the team will learn if its magic with redemption will continue.
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