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It seemed that it was only a matter of time before Virginia would break through and take the lead. The UVA field hockey team largely outplayed and out-hustled North Carolina through the first half of Sunday’s ACC Championship game at Syracuse. Virginia had two shots on goal in the first half as compared to zero for UNC and the Hoos had the four-time defending ACC champs on their heels.

In an instant, Virginia’s momentum in the match was obliterated by a brilliant penalty corner goal by none other than Erin Matson, the four-time ACC Offensive Player of the Year.

Matson scored against Virginia for the fourth time this season, helping the Tar Heels capture their fifth straight ACC championship and 24th title in program history.

In the regular season finale on October 29th, Matson scored three goals, including the overtime game winner to give UNC the 3-2 victory over UVA.

Matson stayed hot in the ACC Championship, scoring three goals in North Carolina’s 4-1 win over Syracuse in the semifinals. In the Championship Game on Sunday, Virginia smothered North Carolina’s offense in the first half, but Erin Matson would not be denied.

Less than four minutes into the third quarter, Paityn Wirth and Madison Orobono set up Matson for a shot at the top of the circle on a penalty corner. Matson took a hard shot and it deflected off of the stick of Makayla Gallen and found the back of the cage to give the Tar Heels the lead.

Virginia outshot North Carolina 5-4 and shots on goal were 2-1 in favor of the Cavaliers. But, North Carolina defended incredibly well in the circle and held Virginia scoreless. UNC goalkeeper Abigail Taylor made two saves to keep the Hoos off the board.

With the loss, Virginia’s amazing ACC Championship run comes to an end. The Cavaliers took down No. 4 seed Boston College 2-0 in the quarterfinals on Thursday and defeated No. 1 seed Louisville in the semifinals on Friday in an epic shootout finish.

Makayla Gallen, Amber Ezechiels, and Rachel Robinson were named to the All-ACC Tournament Team. 

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UVA entered the ACC Championship on the bubble for the 18-team NCAA Tournament field. The Hoos came up just short of securing the ACC’s automatic berth, which goes to the ACC Champion North Carolina Tar Heels. But, the Cavaliers’ performance in the ACC Championship has certainly done a great deal to bolster their resume and help their case for making the NCAA Tournament.

The Hoos will find out their NCAA Tournament fate on the 2021 Division 1 field hockey selection show on at 10pm on Sunday night. 

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