North Carolina Wins Defensive Battle, Captures 5th Straight ACC Title


The ACC championship crown is staying in Chapel Hill.

For the fifth season in a row, North Carolina is the class of the conference. The Tar Heels, ranked first in the country since the preseason, scored a season-low nine goals but outlasted a gritty Syracuse team 9-4 Sunday afternoon to capture the title.

As she often does, Jamie Ortega led the scoring with three goals and two assists. Melissa Sconone scored twice and Ally Mastroianni controlled five draws.

Two of the top defenses in the country were on display from the jump. A contested, physical first half ended with UNC on top just 4-2 when Ortega assisted Sconone in close.

North Carolina (18-0) held Syracuse (14-3) to just 22 shots, and while the Syracuse defense did limit UNC, it was goalkeeper Asa Goldstock who kept her team in the fight. She made 11 saves.

Ortega scored the first goal of the second half, putting North Carolina ahead 5-2. Freshman star Emma Ward then assisted Emma Tyrrell, who’s nifty backhander running from right to left across the cage cut the deficit back to two goals.

The sides then traded goals again, but UNC took control after that. Sconone’s free position goal gave the Tar Heels a 7-4 lead, then Sconone assisted Mastroianni, who scored in a player-up situation for an 8-3 lead.

Ortega’s third goal and 73rd of the season made the score 9-4 with 4:36 remaining.

The win all but locks up the top seed in the NCAA tournament for North Carolina, and it’s likely Syracuse will earn a national seed, too. Two of Syracuse’s three losses this season came to North Carolina (the third was against Boston College, which they’ve since beaten twice).

The NCAA Selection Show is Sunday, May 9, at 9 p.m. Eastern on ESPNU.

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