CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — With a 2-0 win over No. 3 Duke (16-4, 5-1) Friday night, the No. 2 North Carolina field hockey team (14-3, 5-1 ACC) captured its seventh consecutive ACC Championship and 26th overall in program history. The Tar Heels’ defense came up with three consecutive game-defining stops on penalty corners in the third quarter that typified the Tar Heels’ lock-tight defense on the night.
Those stops allowed UNC to create separation, and ultimately go on to capture the ACC crown.
Throughout the first quarter, both teams struggled to find themselves offensively. Duke’s defense was suffocating, often leaving the Tar Heels scrambling as they attempted to move upfield.
“(Duke) came out of the gate strong,” graduate back Romea Riccardo said. “I know the first half is always frantic and it's always a back and forth kind of game.”
The only shot attempted in the first quarter came with 54 seconds left in the period off a Duke penalty corner. Blue Devils sophomore Alaina McVeigh missed to the left of the goal in what was the only glimmer of offense during a defensively dynamic first quarter.
The Tar Heels drew a penalty corner midway through the second. Senior forward Paityn Wirth inserted the corner leading to UNC’s first shot of the game. Sophomore midfielder Sietske Brüning’s shot looked pure, but just before it skipped into the net, Duke goalie Piper Hamsch came in with a diving save.
When its offense struggled, North Carolina’s defense held strong. For every time the Tar Heels faltered, their defense picked them up.
“Obviously, I want to keep it as even as possible for as long as possible,” goalie Maddie Kahn said. “But I mean, it really just comes down to doing my job. If there's a save and I can make it, I'm going to make it.”
The score was knotted at zero at halftime.