Van Sickle earned tournament MVP.
North Carolina Athletics

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Top-seeded North Carolina scored two goals late in the first half and rode a strong defensive performance to a 4-2 victory against third-seeded Maryland to win the 2012 ACC Field Hockey Championship for the second year in a row.

"Winning an ACC championship in any sport is not easy to do," North Carolina coach Karen Shelton said. "Maryland played a very good game against us and it took everything that we had to handle them. I'm really proud of our back four, and I felt they had some key intercepts there that were momentum-changers in the game."

With the win, North Carolina (20-1, 5-0) clinched its 18th conference title, all under Shelton, and secured the league's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. The Tar Heels improved their tournament record to 40-12 overall.

UNC now awaits the announcement of the 2012 NCAA Tournament bracket on Tuesday. The tournament opens Saturday, with first-round games at campus sites. 

Maryland (16-5, 3-2) earned the first penalty corners of the game midway through the first period but was not able to cash in on three consecutive attempts. Terp goaltender Natalie Hunter stopped UNC senior Kelsey Kolojejchick on a Tar Heel fast break a minute later to keep the game scoreless.

North Carolina got on the board first with a goal by sophomore Loren Shealy in the 29th minute. Sophomore Charlotte Craddock drove down the right side and fired a cross through the circle, and Shealy collected the rebound and shot to give the Tar Heels the lead.

"I was just at the right place at the right time on the far post," Shealy said. "It is something we have worked on all season. It was good to get on the board and push the momentum in our favor."

Kolojejchick scored her 14th goal of the season with 18 seconds remaining in the first period. She hit the post with her first shot and grabbed her own rebound, scoring on her second attempt.

The Terps held the nation's top offense to just two shots through the first 25 minutes of the game, but the Tar Heels found success through their fast break offense and had eight shots in the last ten minutes. Maryland, after finding chances early in the period, did not register a shot over 29 minutes spanning the end of the first half through the start of the second period.

Freshman Sarah Sprink got the Terps on the board with a goal off a penalty corner in the 50th minute. Ali McEvoy assisted on the play.

Winning an ACC championship in any sport is not easy to do.
-- Coach Karen Shelton

Craddock helped push the lead to two goals at 3-1 in the 58th minute with an unassisted goal.

The Terps pulled their keeper with just over five minutes to play and managed to pull within a goal. With 95 seconds left, Jill Witmer dived to deflect a ball from Katie Gerzabek past UNC goalkeeper Sassi Ammer.

With the UM keeper still out, Shealy scored in the open goal with 40 seconds remaining for the final score.

North Carolina outshot Maryland 17-12 and each team earned seven corners.

Ammer finished with four saves, and Hunter made eight saves in the loss.

UNC senior Caitlin Van Sickle, the team captain, was named Tournament Most Valuable Player for her defensive performance in the two Tar Heel victories.

"It's an honor [to be named MVP], but winning the championship is more important," Van Sickle said. "I wouldn't have been able to do the things I do without any of my teammates out there. The championship is a lot more important than individual awards."

Van Sickle was joined on the all-tournament team by Kolojejchick, Shealy and freshman Emily Wold.