Athletics

Carolina field hockey team claims third ACC title in a row

The top-ranked Tar Heels beat second-seeded Boston College 3-1 to claim the team's 22nd ACC Tournament title.

The top-ranked Tar Heels beat Boston College 3-1 on Sunday to claim its 22nd ACC Championship. Photo by Mary Schwalm, The ACC.

For the third year in a row, the fourth time in five years and the 22nd time in program history, North Carolina is the Atlantic Coast Conference field hockey champion.

The top-ranked Tar Heels beat second-seeded Boston College 3-1 on its home field at Newton Field Hockey Complex Sunday to claim the crown. Senior forward Marissa Creatore scored two goals in the final and was named the tournament MVP. Senior midfielder Yentl Leemans, sophomore forward Erin Matson and freshman defender Madison Orobono joined her on the All-Tournament Team.

“I’m thrilled for our team,” Carolina coach Karen Shelton said. “An ACC championship for the University of North Carolina is a meaningful thing. All we try to do is represent to the best of our ability, so to win an ACC Championship – at Boston College, on their home field – is a big deal. Boston College fought hard – they’re a very, very worthy opponent and I love that it was tied going into the fourth quarter. There was no quit in them and I think no quit in us. It was nice to have a game like that as we prepare for NCAA postseason.”

With the win, Carolina earns the ACC automatic berth in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. The tournament bracket will be announced at 10 p.m. Sunday on a live broadcast on NCAA.com.

On Sunday at BC, a standing-room-only crowd of 1,121 packed Newton Field Hockey Complex for the ACC title game. It marked the first time since 2010 that the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds had met in the final.

Carolina jumped ahead in the first quarter, scoring in the 12th minute of play on its first penalty corner of the game. Matson sent a ball to the right post and Creatore got her stick on it to direct it into the cage for a 1-0 lead that stood through halftime.

In the 42nd minute, BC scored to tie the game, with Jaime Natale scoring from in front of the cage on a ball from Elizabeth Warner.

The score was tied going into the fourth quarter, but the Tar Heels scored 3:05 in on another penalty corner. Matson passed the ball behind her back to Leemans, who fired a shot that bounced off the goalkeeper’s pads and in.

(She also had the game-winning goal on a late penalty corner when Carolina beat BC 3-2 on Oct. 25 in Chapel Hill in the teams’ regular season matchup.)

Creatore added another goal late. After stealing the ball from a BC player, she carried it into the circle from the right side and sent it past Dwyer, into the left side of the cage for a 3-1 lead that would hold up for the final score.

“She’s a kid who has worked her tail off and represented our program so well,” Shelton said. “Her hard work has paid off. What I told the rest of the team is, that doesn’t happen by accident. She’s put in years of coming early and working on her shot and working on deflections. She’s put in the time and you love it when hard work pays off.”

Leemans and Matson, both first-team All-America selections in 2018, earned All-Tournament honors for the second year in a row.

“Erin and Yentl are two very special players and I love that they’re on our team,” Shelton said. “I thought both played their hearts out today. They both draw a lot of attention, which frees up other people. They are absolutely vital to our continued success and I’m proud of them – they earned it today.”

Orobono, a true freshman who has started at center back all season, earned the All-Tournament honor for her steady play in her first tournament. “Maddi has continued to grow and she made some real savvy moves back there,” Shelton said. “It’s not easy to play deep back for us, with our young defense. They’re all rookies back there, and she holds down the fort for us.”

Read more at GoHeels.com.