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Fast and furious face-offs set for ACC tournament

The most competitive field hockey conference in the nation pits the best college teams against each other this weekend when the ACC Championship tournament kicks off in Chapel Hill, N.C. Top-seeded Maryland has earned a bye in the first round. No. 4 seed Virginia faces No. 5 seed Duke on Thursday and No. 2 seed Wake Forest takes on the No. 3 seed North Carolina on Friday.

Virginia heads into the tournament with a 12-6 record overall and a .500 winning percentage in the ACC over four conference contests. The Cavaliers managed to silence Duke, their first-round opponent, with a 2-1 overtime win in their final regular season game on Sunday. It was the third consecutive time that Virginia has needed more than regulation play to knock off the Blue Devils.

The Cavaliers will rely on the experience of senior tri-captains Carrie Goodloe, Mason White and Jessie Coleman, who each have been to the tournament three times, when they move into the first round Thursday. Virginia sophomore goalkeeper Emily White's continued consistent play also will be a key to keeping the Cavaliers in contention against the powerful ACC offenses. Although tough competition will greet the Cavaliers at each round of the tournament, Virginia coach Jessica Wilk is concentrating on the immediate task at hand.

"We're focusing on Duke," she said. "The minute you look past a team in the ACC, you're out and you're going home."

Wake Forest and North Carolina play the other first-round game. The Demon Deacons are ranked third and the Tar Heels are ranked fourth nationally, so the match will knock out one of the nation's top 10 field hockey teams.

The Demon Deacons boast great offensive depth and just one ACC loss - a 4-1 defeat at Maryland on Sept. 22 - entering the tournament. Wake Forest coach Jennifer Averill believes that it's the offensive depth that will give her team an edge.

"Some teams have a leading scorer, but our scoring's been spread out," she said. "If you want to shut us down, you have to stop five or six players."

North Carolina fell twice to Wake Forest during the regular season but will have the advantage of playing in front of its home crowd. Averill, however, still is pleased to be playing in Chapel Hill.

Playing at home "is a factor if you make it a factor," she said. "Chapel Hill has one of the best playing surfaces in the country. There's always a little advantage in playing at home, but we like playing there, too."

Related Links

  • Official site for Virginia field hockey
  • Official site for ACC field hockey
  • The Tar Heels bring an offensive arsenal that includes freshman Kerry Falgowski and senior Abby Martin. They are tied for the team lead with 12 goals apiece.

    Virginia potentially has the longest road to the championship game because it goes through Maryland in the second round. The Cavaliers managed to hand the Terrapins their only ACC loss on Sept. 30 at College Park, Md. The game ran into double overtime before being decided on penalty strokes, 3-2, in favor of the Cavaliers. But the playoff-savvy Maryland squad carries great momentum with only one loss in its last eight games.

    "We have eight seniors who have been there and are accustomed to tournament play," Maryland coach Missy Meharg said. "We are very well prepared."

    With five teams ranked in the nation's top 15 squaring off against one another and the country's best players on display, field hockey fans will be hard-pressed to find a dull game this weekend.

    "The ACC level of competition brings out the best because the best athletes play in the ACC," Meharg said. "The outcomes are important but let's just go out and play good hockey"


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