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Heels pose semifinal test

Virginia faces North Carolina in rematch of last year

The No. 3 Virginia field hockey team faces defending national champions and No. 2 North Carolina for the third time this season in the NCAA semifinals today in College Park, Md. After falling twice to the Tar Heels earlier this year, the team hopes this third opportunity, on the verge of the national title game, will be a charm.

"We know what to expect this season in the Final Four," junior All-ACC midfielder Paige Selenski said. "I feel like we are evenly matched with [North Carolina]. Every game we've played against them is fast-paced, so we have to be ready for that. In the end, we just have to execute. Last season, we were kind of content just getting to the Final Four - it was a different experience. Now, we know what that's like and we're here to win."

Virginia lost 3-2 last month in Chapel Hill, N.C., after falling behind, 2-0, at halftime and conceding the game-winning goal with two minutes to spare. The team also lost, 1-0, in overtime after the Tar Heels intercepted a pass to score the decisive goal two weeks ago at the ACC Tournament in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Junior defender Rachel Jennings said the team has a special game plan prepared to break down the "structured" Tar Heels. Jennings noted that stopping North Carolina starts with shutting down its best players: sophomore All-ACC midfielder Kelsey Kolojejchick and senior national team goalkeeper Jackie Kintzer.

Kolojejchick and Kintzer lead a deep and balanced team that has scored nearly four times as much as its opponents for an overall 80-19 this season. Nevertheless, Virginia coach Michele Madison and her team are not afraid of the prolific Tar Heels.

"Our performances have been good against North Carolina in the past. I thought we played well [against North Carolina in the ACC Tournament]. It's a whole new ball game when you enter the Final Four," Madison said.

Madison noted that her team will need to start off strong to play its game effectively, something she admitted her team did not do in the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament in Charlottesville.

"We didn't play as well as we would have liked [against Michigan State and Princeton], but we pulled out the result, which is what matters at this stage," Madison said. "We'll keep on working and we'll be ready to play. It's the Final Four. When we go through adversity or think something negative, we have to list 10 positives to counter that."

The game is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. Should the Cavaliers manage to overcome the Tar Heels, they then will take on the winner of the Maryland-Ohio State matchup this Sunday at noon.