Coming off of an ACC quarterfinal win over Louisville Tuesday, No. 9 Virginia had an opportunity to reach the ACC championship game for its second consecutive season as it faced off against No. 1 North Carolina in Cary, N.C. The Cavaliers (8-2-1, 5-2-1 ACC) looked to seek revenge after a 2-1 double overtime loss in last year’s ACC championship game. However, with the regular season bout between the teams canceled earlier this season, the Tar Heels (10-0, 8-0 ACC) capitalized on a few key opportunities to advance to the ACC championship against top-seeded Florida State.
Virginia was able to put pressure on North Carolina in the first half, outshooting the Tar Heels 5-4. Freshman midfielder Lia Godfrey, recently named the ACC Freshman of the Year, nearly gave the Cavaliers an early lead in the ninth minute but hit the crossbar instead. Subsequently, North Carolina took advantage of a Virginia mistake as sophomore midfielder Aleigh Gambone was able to draw a penalty kick in the 40th minute. Junior goalkeeper Claudia Dickey registered her first career goal with the penalty kick to give the Tar Heels a 1-0 lead.
“In the first half, we played well,” Coach Steve Swanson said. “It was unfortunate to give up the penalty the way that all transpired, but I was pretty pleased with the first half. They came out hard in the second half and we were fortunate to not give up a goal in that first 10 or 15 minutes, but again we did some things.”
The second half was in many ways similar to the first as each team struggled to capitalize on numerous attempts. The Tar Heels’ high-pressure style of play stymied the Cavalier offense and Coach Anson Dorrance’s large group substitutions allowed North Carolina to keep the energy up with fast-paced action.
Sophomore forward Isabel Cox was able to secure the win in the 79th minute with a goal, assisted by junior forward Rachel Jones. With a 2-0 deficit, the Cavaliers were unable to score in the final 10 minutes, ending their fall season.
“We just didn’t generate enough quality chances against them,” Swanson said. “They are physical and competitive and won a lot of first and second balls, which led to them getting penetration on us. Give them credit. They played well and finished the chances they got.”
With the NCAA postponing the tournament until the spring, Virginia ends its season with an ACC Tournament semifinal loss, but looks to prepare for an expected bid into the NCAA Tournament when it arrives. North Carolina will take on No. 2 Florida State in the ACC Championship, a game that features the top two teams both in the ACC and in the country.