Mild upset: #3 UVA field hockey knocks off #1 UNC, 2-1

unc-uva2The No. 3 UVA field hockey team (10-2, 4-0 ACC) earned a 2-1 upset victory on the road at No. 1 North Carolina (8-2, 2-2 ACC) on Friday (Oct. 3).

Goals from senior midfielder Kelsey LeBlanc (Haverford, Pa.) and the sophomore striker Riley Tata (Virginia Beach, Va.) as well as seven saves from senior goalkeeper Jenny Johnstone (Paisley, Scotland) helped the Cavaliers secure their ninth-straight victory.

“This was an awesome team effort,” said Virginia head coach Michele Madison. “We went into this game with the thought that if life gives you lemons, you have to make lemonade. Our goal was to make lemonade and the team came out and just crushed it. I credit every single player. We had to go deep into our bench and every single player contributed today. I give kudos to North Carolina on playing a great game. This was a treat for the spectators to watch with all of the scoring opportunities for both teams.”

The victory was the second time in program history that the Cavaliers have knocked off the top-ranked team in the nation and the first time the victory has come in regulation.

Virginia’s only other victory over a team ranked No. 1 was Sept. 30, 2001, when the No. 11 Cavaliers defeated Maryland, 3-2, on strokes.

Tied 0-0 at the half, LeBlanc broke the deadlock two minutes into the second period. Freshman midfielder Tara Vittese (Cherry Hill, N.J.) took a hard shot from the top of the circle after a penalty corner. LeBlanc, positioned at the left corner of the net, deflected in the shot for the score. North Carolina countered 46 seconds later with Emily Wold shooting through traffic from just inside the circle to tie the game, 1-1. Five minutes later, Tata scored her ninth goal of the season, deflecting in a shot from fellow sophomore striker Caleigh Foust (Bryn Mawr, Pa.) to give UVa a 2-1 lead with 27:48 remaining.

With 7:29 left in the game, the Tar Heels pulled their goalkeeper to pick up an extra attacker, playing the remainder of the game with an empty net.

UNC seemed to tie the game with 3:30 remaining when a shot off a short corner went past Johnstone into the goal, but the officials ruled that the shot was high and waved off the goal.

With two minutes left in the game, UNC had two more good looks at goal with Johnstone saving a shot and sophomore back Emily Faught (Newton Square, Pa.) making a defensive save on the second-chance attempt.

The Tar Heels outshot the Cavaliers, 17-11, and had eight short corners, including six in the second half.

The ACC-leading Cavaliers have four wins over top-10 squads (No. 1 North Carolina, then-ranked No. 3 Duke, then-ranked No. 7 Albany and then-ranked No. 10 Syracuse) in their last five games.

Virginia’s last victory over UNC was a 1-0 game in the 2009 ACC Tournament. UVa’s last regular-season win over the Tar Heels was a 2-1 win in Chapel Hill in 2006, Michele Madison’s first season as the UVa head coach.

Virginia closes out the weekend hosting Ohio State (3-6, 0-2 Big Ten) on Sunday, Oct. 5 at 1 p.m. at Turf Field. Admission is free for all of Virginia’s regular-season home field hockey games.

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