"I'm so proud of the Tar Heels for advancing to the championship game," said UNC coach Karen Shelton, who will coach in the title game for the 21st time in the 31-year history of the event. "We knew we had a big challenge in facing Syracuse, which has played so well all year. They're a great defensive team, but they're a stellar offensive team as well. I thought it took an outstanding team effort on our part."
The Tar Heel goal came with 10:49 remaining before halftime and required extraordinary teamwork from three Tar Heels. Sophomore Emma Bozek stole the ball from a defender just outside the circle and passed it to the left of the cage. Junior Loren Shealy dove to get her stick on it and send a pass across the mouth of the goal, where Wold dove to tip it past Syracuse keeper Jess Jecko.
"It was just amazing," Shelton said of the goal by Wold. "We have a world-class player - a midfielder, too - getting on her belly to score the goal. She lifted the team when we really needed her. Of course, she also had a great supporting cast.
"We still want to generate more offensive opportunities - not drawing a penalty corner in a game is unusual for us - but I'm pleased with the quality of the goal that we did score and the fact that we were able to hold on at the end under extreme pressure. To get a shutout against Syracuse is impressive and I'm so pleased for our team."
While UNC didn't have a single corner, Syracuse had four, two of which came back-to-back with no time on the first half clock and another which came with no time remaining at the end of the game. In each case Tar Heel goalkeeper Sassi Ammer made stops to hold the Orange scoreless. She finished with seven saves on the day, tying her season high.
Late in the game, the Orange appeared to tie the score. With 3:10 remaining, Syracuse's Jordan Page took a shot from outside the circle that went into the cage and was initially ruled a goal, based on having touched a player inside the circle. But the call was reviewed - this is the first year that the conference allows video review of goals - and the replay showed conclusively that the ball didn't touch a player inside the circle, so the goal was waved off and the score stood at 1-0.
The Tar Heels played without senior forward Sinead Loughran, who injured her right hand in Thursday's game against Wake Forest. She is doubtful for Sunday's game.
After defeating No. 15 Wake Forest on Thursday and No. 2 Syracuse on Friday, the Tar Heels will now face No. 1 Maryland for their third game in a four-day span. "I do really like the fact that we play hard games back-to-back," Shelton said. "It prepares us for postseason to have these quality games. It's a credit to the conference and it helps each individual team prepare for NCAA play."
UNC and Maryland have met in two of the last three ACC title games, with the Tar Heels winning in 2012 and the Terrapins in 2010. (UNC beat Duke for the title in 2011.) Carolina is trying for three championships in a row for the first time since the 1990s, when UNC won five in a row from 1993-97 and 14 of the first 15 ACC titles contested.
The teams' first meeting of the year was on Oct. 5 in Chapel Hill. Maryland senior Jill Witmer scored in the sixth minute of overtime to give Maryland a 2-1 win. The Terrapins, who are seeded No. 1 in the tournament and received a first-round bye, beat Duke 3-2 in overtime in Friday's first semifinal game to advance.
"I'm excited to play Maryland," Shelton said. "They're a great team and I think they're playing their best right now."
No. 3 North Carolina 1, No. 2 Syracuse 0
Shots: UNC 5 (3/2), SU 9 (5/4)
Penalty corners: UNC 0, SU 4 (2/2)
Goalkeeper saves: UNC 7 (Sassi Ammer, 70:00, 0 goals allowed, 7 saves); SU 2 (Jess Jecko, 69:20, 1 goal allowed, 2 saves)
Records: UNC 16-4, Syracuse 16-3