Nov. 19, 2010

By Jeff Seidel
Special to NCAA.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -
North Carolina's Meghan Dawson was supposed to pass after getting the ball on a penalty corner early in overtime on Friday.

The Tar Heels are glad she didnt follow instructions.

Dawson got the pass but saw an opening and quickly changed her plans. She fired a bullet past Virginia goalie Kim Kastuk just 4 minutes, 19 seconds into sudden-death overtime to give the No. 2 Tar Heels a 4-3 victory over the third-ranked Cavaliers in a national field hockey semifinal at Marylands Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex.

Defending champion North Carolina (22-2) will make its 13th trip to the national championship game at noon Sunday. The Tar Heels will meet Maryland once again and will go for a seventh national title.

Overtime is played in a 7-on-7 format, and North Carolina got a penalty corner about four minutes in. Elizabeth Drazdowski sent a pass to Dawson, who took a few steps right and fired a shot into the right side of the cage.

To be honest, that wasnt supposed to happen,” said Dawson with a smile. I was supposed to show to the right and then pass to the left to Caitlin Van Sickle. I [saw] an open lane, and I knew I had to take the shot.”

Said North Carolina coach Karen Shelton: We call that improvisation.”

The Tar Heels had to rally from an early 2-0 deficit to beat Virginia (18-4) for the third time this season. This also was the second time they came from behind after trailing by two goals.

Paige Selenski scored all three Cavalier goals in this game, and she got two in the first half to give Virginia the quick 2-0 lead.

But Drazdowski redirected Van Sickles ball past Kastuk on a penalty corner with 1:35 left in the first half to cut the lead to 2-1. That seemed to give North Carolina a spark.

Theres no doubt that that was a critical goal,” said Shelton. [A] one-goal game is much different than a two-goal game. We really didnt change anything at halftime. We felt like we were right in the game.”

The Tar Heels then tied the game on a Marta Malmberg penalty stroke and went in front on a Van Sickle goal with 18:58 left in the game. But Selenski tied it just 42 seconds later to set the stage for the overtime.

This loss clearly crushed the Cavaliers, and the disappointment was easy to see. Coach Michele Madison at first could only say nothing more than we lost” when making a post-game statement.

But Madison later expressed her pride in Virginias hard work in this game and season.

I couldnt be more proud of the efforts of the entire team,” she said. Everyone is so disappointed because we give our heart and soul each and every day in practice. They believe in each other, and to lose like that causes a lot of pain.”