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No. 5 Virginia field hockey’s ACC Tournament run falls just short of a conference championship

The Cavaliers picked up thrilling wins over Louisville and Wake Forest before falling to North Carolina in the championship match

<p>Virginia now awaits its seeding for the upcoming NCAA Tournament.&nbsp;</p>

Virginia now awaits its seeding for the upcoming NCAA Tournament. 

No. 5 Virginia field hockey traveled to Durham, N.C. for the ACC Tournament this week, competing against No. 12 Louisville, No. 8 Wake Forest and No. 1 North Carolina. The third-seeded Cavaliers (13-6, 3-3 ACC) edged the Cardinals (12-7, 1-5 ACC) 1-0 in the quarterfinals and came back against the Demon Deacons (15-5, 6-2 ACC) in the semifinals to win 3-2. This earned Virginia a 2021 ACC Championship rematch against the Tar Heels (17-0, 6-0 ACC). The contest ended similarly to last year’s, with North Carolina winning by a slim 3-2 margin.

Quarterfinals- Virginia 1, Louisville 0

Virginia attacked early, applying pressure to Louisville’s defense out of the gate. Late in the first quarter, freshman midfielder Caroline Nemec dribbled towards the left side of Louisville’s circle and connected a long pass to sophomore striker Taryn Tkachuk who was open towards the front of the goal. With the ball on her reverse side, Tkachuk flicked the ball up into the far end of the net, putting Virginia on the board 1-0.

In the second quarter, the Cardinals offense challenged freshman goalkeeper Jet Trimborn, who contributed five saves on the match. Virginia’s back line and Trimborn held strong, keeping Louisville scoreless at the half.

Louisville continued to dominate possession and shots in the third quarter, tallying seven shots — four of which were saved by Trimborn. Sophomore midfielder Noa Boterman also contributed an excellent stick save inches from the goal line that kept the Cavaliers on top.

Shots were traded between teams in the fourth quarter, though none found the back of the net. Even after pulling their goalkeeper for an extra field player with 1:04 remaining, the Cardinals still could not find another shot. 

Despite being outshot 13-4 and having a 5-2 disadvantage in penalty corners, Virginia recorded its sixth shut-out of the season to move to the semifinals.

Semifinals- Virginia 3, Wake Forest 2

Virginia did not immediately capitalize on the momentum of the previous match — only freshman midfielder Daniela Mendez-Trendler was able to record a shot in the first period. The defense compensated for the lack of offensive production by holding Wake shotless going into the second period.

The Demon Deacons quickly shifted momentum in their favor at the start of the second quarter, earning three consecutive corners. They delivered the first scoring strike of the game following the third penalty stroke, sending the two teams into halftime with the Demon Deacons up 1-0.

After the break, the Cavaliers quickly established possession, though they failed to capitalize on opportunities. However, Wake Forest had a strong counterattack off a wide shot by sophomore back Jans Croon. The Demon Deacons efficiently moved the ball down the field and snuck a shot past Trimborn a mere 15 seconds after Croon’s shot.

The momentum shifted after a Wake Forest green card gave Virginia a one-player advantage. With just under 20 seconds remaining in the two-minute penalty time, graduate student midfielder Annie McDonough tipped a pass from junior midfielder Meghan Hengerer past the Demon Deacons’ goalkeeper for the Cavaliers’ first goal of the game. 

After one Wake Forest green card, two Virginia green cards, a Virginia penalty corner taken by Hengerer and a Virginia shot taken by Boterman, the matchup headed into the fourth period with Wake Forest leading 2-1. With four minutes left, Coach Michele Madison made the decision to pull Trimborn from the net and send Hengerer in as an additional attacker.

The gamble paid off — in a miracle sequence, Hengerer completed a rocket of a pass from the far right side to Tkachuk, who was situated dead center in the middle of the circle. She pulled an impressive move, flipping the ball up and over the Wake Forest goalkeeper, tying the game with only 95 seconds remaining. Trimborn returned to the net as overtime began.

Only 1:27 minutes into overtime, McDonough fired a pass into the circle to senior midfielder Adele Iacobucci who fell to her knees and slid straight towards the goal, delivering the slight tip needed to earn the Cavaliers a remarkable 3-2 overtime win over the Demon Deacons.

Finals- Virginia 2, North Carolina 3

The ACC Championship match began as a midfield possession battle until the Tar Heels gained a penalty corner. Freshman midfielder Ashley Sessa sent the pass in to senior forward Erin Matson whose shot deflected off of the Virginia defense, allowing another opportunity for North Carolina to score. Off the deflection, sophomore midfielder Lisa Slinkert shot the ball over Trimborn, marking the first goal of the game. 

North Carolina dominated the second quarter, totalling five penalty quarters during the first half as the Cavaliers’ offense struggled. In the last 44 seconds of the half, the Tar Heels secured a penalty corner after the ball deflected off of Croon while inside the circle. Matson passed to freshman midfielder Sietske Brüning whose shot deflected off of freshman midfielder Ryleigh Heck’s stick and into the goal, leading North Carolina to a 2-0 lead at the half.

Early in the third quarter, senior striker Laura Janssen took the Cavaliers’ first shot which went wide of the net, leaving Virginia down two goals heading into the fourth quarter 

Finally, 2:30 into the final quarter, the Cavaliers put themselves on the board. McDonough received a pass that went through the defense and past Tar Heel freshman goalkeeper Kylie Walbert, where McDonough tapped the ball into the goal.

Trimborn followed up the first Virginia goal with multiple saves as the defense attempted to shore itself up for the final stretch. Though North Carolina’s junior midfielder Kiersten Thomassey received a green card, the Tar Heels didn’t ease up on their offensive pressure. 11:57 into the quarter Trimborn stepped out in an attempt to cut off the angle, but Heck ran along the goal line and converted a shot, putting the Tar Heels up 3-1.

The Cavaliers pulled Trimborn for a final offensive push and gained a penalty corner within the last two minutes of the game. After the ball was sent in by senior back Cato Geusgens, Janssen fired off a shot right into the net, making it a one goal deficit. However, Virginia was unable to complete the comeback, and North Carolina prevailed 3-2.

“The team fought hard to the end with the belief and desire they competed with to get us to the final,” Madison said. “There were some world-class hockey moments today. We had several players come through when needed. Total team defense that was fierce and relentless. I am looking forward to a good rest and the release of the brackets on Sunday.”

The Cavaliers secured their spot in the NCAA Championship and look forward to their first round matchup Friday.


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