COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Top-ranked North Carolina finished Atlantic Coast Conference field hockey play undefeated and claimed the top seed in the 2012 ACC Championship with a 4-3 overtime win at Maryland Saturday afternoon. The Tar Heels trailed 3-1 in the first half but rallied to win their second consecutive overtime game and improve to 16-1 overall, 5-0 in ACC play. Maryland is 12-4 overall (3-2 ACC).
"I'm really happy for our team," UNC coach Karen Shelton said. "We know Maryland could've beaten us - they had a shot hit the pipe in overtime. We put a lot of pressure on them in the second half, but their kids played well. It could have gone either way and I'm pleased we were able to get the win."
UNC scored first, when sophomore Loren Shealy knocked in a ball from senior Katie Ardrey just 4:49 into the game. The game stood at 1-0 until the 23rd minute, when Maryland scored all three of its goals within a nine-minute span. Jill Witmer had the first, then the Terps got back-to-back penalty corner goals in the 25th minute and the 32nd minute. Both were by Sarah Sprink assisted by Harriet Tibble and Katie Gerzabek and came on Maryland's only corners of the first half.
Just over a minute before halftime senior Caitlin Van Sickle scored an unassisted goal to draw the Tar Heels within one at the break.
UNC led 7-5 in shots in the first half, but increased its margin significantly in the second, outshooting Maryland 16-6. Just one of those shots found its mark, though, by freshman Emma Bozek in the 57th minute. She scored off a rebound to tie the game at 3-3.
"It's hard to come from behind and force overtime and this was significant for our team," Shelton said. "I'm proud of our group. We hadn't been down two goals all year. We got the first one before halftime and then to get the equalizer was big."
Although both teams had opportunities in the final 13 minutes of regulation, neither was able to grab an advantage. The overtime game was Carolina's second in a row (UNC beat Virginia 3-2 in overtime last Saturday at home) and third of the season. The Tar Heels lost the first one, 1-0 at Syracuse in the season's only setback, but are now 2-1 in overtime this fall. Freshman Emily Wold scored the gamewinner 6:24 into the extra period to give UNC the win and the regular-season conference crown.
"It was a great team effort," Shelton said. "We've now won back-to-back regular season championships and I'm proud of our kids. And getting the top seed in the tournament is important."
Maryland and UNC have met in the last three NCAA Championship games, with Carolina winning in 2009 and the Terrapins triumphing in overtime in 2010 and 2011.
Next up for the Tar Heels is a game at Old Dominion on Friday. UNC then returns home to host Radford and celebrate Senior Day Oct. 28 in the final home game of the season.
UNC will host the 2012 ACC Field Hockey Championship Nov. 1, 2 and 4 at Francis E. Henry Stadium.
No. 1 North Carolina 4, No. 6 Maryland 3, OT
Scoring: UNC - Loren Shealy (Katie Ardrey), 4:49; MD - Jill Witmer, 22:15; MD - Sarah Sprink (Harriet Tibble, Katie Gerzabek), 25:06; MD - Sprink (Tibble, Gerzabek), 31:07; UNC - Caitlin Van Sickle, 33:51; UNC - Emma Bozek, 56:43; UNC - Emily Wold, 76:24
Shots: UNC 25 (7/16/2), MD 12 (5/6/1)
Penalty corners: UNC 134 (5/8/0), MD 7 (2/5/0)
Saves: UNC 3 (Sassi Ammer, 76:24, 3 goals allowed, 3 saves); Maryland 9 (Natalie Hunter, 76:24, 4 goals allowed, 9 saves)
Records: UNC 16-1 (5-0 ACC), UM 12-4 (3-2 ACC)