CHAPEL HILL – For the fifth year in a row and the 18th time in program history, North Carolina has earned a spot in field hockey’s final four. The third-ranked Tar Heels defeated No. 13 Wake Forest 5-2 Sunday in an NCAA Tournament second round game at Francis E. Henry Stadium to advance to the NCAA semifinals. Carolina will face No. 4 Connecticut Friday in Norfolk, Va., on the campus of Old Dominion University.
The Tar Heels are now 18-5, while the Demon Deacons finished their season at 12-9. UNC is one of three Atlantic Coast Conference teams to make the final four, along with top-seeded Maryland and fourth-seeded Duke. UConn advanced by beating Michigan State, which scored a first-round upset against second-seeded Syracuse, the fourth ACC team hosting first and second-round games this weekend.
“I’m excited for our Tar Heels to be going to the final four,” said UNC coach Karen Shelton, who is in her 33rd year with the program and has coached the Tar Heels to six NCAA crowns. “It never ever gets old and it’s never easy to get there.
“Wake Forest had an outstanding year and came on strong at the end. Congratulations to them for finishing in the top eight – they made it rough for us today. They’re a good team – well-organized, scrappy and they never quit. They made us earn every minute.”
Sunday’s game was the third meeting of the season for UNC and Wake Forest. Carolina had won the previous two – 4-2 in the regular season and 3-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament quarterfinals just over a week ago – but it was Wake that got out front first on Sunday, just 1:50 into the game. The Demon Deacons drove into the circle, where UNC keeper Sassi Ammer saved the first shot, by Kari Walkley. But Taylor Rhea gathered the rebound and got the ball past Ammer to put WFU up 1-0.
The visitors held the lead until the ninth minute of play. On UNC’s third penalty corner of the game, sophomore Nina Notman tied the score with her 14th goal of the season, assisted by sophomoreEmily Wold and graduate student Janne Grove.
The game stayed knotted at 1-1 for just over 22 minutes, but in the 31st minute Notman struck again with the gamewinner. On a penalty corner, UNC’s initial shot was saved, but Notman grabbed the rebound on the right side and put it back for a lead Carolina would never give up.
The 2-1 advantage held until the 46th minute of play, when Notman sent a hard ball into the circle and freshman Lauren Moyer got a quick deflection in front of the goal to put UNC up 3-1. Just over three minutes later the Tar Heels struck again, using sharp passing and teamwork. On the run, sophomore Casey Di Nardo passed the ball to junior Charlotte Craddock, who gave it right back and put Di Nardo in perfect position to score her 14th goal of the season.
With the Tar Heels up 4-1, Wake drew its first penalty corner of the game in the 56th minute. Jess McFadyen deflected in a shot from Anna Kozniuk to draw the Demon Deacons within two, and Wake immediately called a timeout. Less than a minute after the restart, however, UNC struck again to make it 5-2. Craddock got a pass from Wold at the right side of the cage and fired a shot just inside the left post for her 12th goal of the season and fourth of the weekend.
“There were some stellar goals out there today,” Shelton said. “I’m thrilled and relieved to be going to another final four.”
On the day, UNC had 33 shots and Wake Forest keeper Valerie Dahmen made a career-high 19 saves.
UNC will depart Wednesday for Norfolk in preparation for Thursday’s practice session and Friday’s game. Maryland and Duke will meet in the first semifinal game, which is a rematch of one of last week’s ACC semifinal games, at 2 p.m. The game between UNC and UConn follows at 4:45 p.m. The Tar Heels and Huskies have already met on the L.R. Hill Sports Complex turf this season, in a neutral-side matchup on Oct. 26, which UNC won 2-1.
No. 3 UNC 5, No. 13 Wake Forest 2
Scoring: WFU – Taylor Rhea, 1:50; UNC – Nina Notman (Janne Grove, Emily Wold), 8:03; UNC – Nina Notman, 30:17; UNC – Lauren Moyer (Nina Notman), 30:17; UNC – Casey Di Nardo (Charlotte Craddock), 48:38; WFU – Jess McFadyen (Anna Kozniuk), 55:44; UNC – Charlotte Craddock (Emily Wold), 56:30
Shots: UNC 33 (20/13), WFU 5 (3/2)
Penalty corners: UNC 10 (8/2), WFU 1 (0/1)
Records: UNC 18-5, WFU 12-9