CARY, N.C. - No. 4 North Carolina utilized an 8-1 run in the first half and a 6-1 streak in the second stanza to hand No. 2 Duke a 17-8 loss Friday evening at a rain-soaked WakeMed Soccer Park, eliminating the Blue Devils from the 2011 conference championship. Duke, which was held to a season-low eight goals in the contest, falls to 13-3 on the year, while North Carolina improves to 11-4. The Tar Heels will take on top-seeded Maryland in the ACC Championship finals Sunday.
"We're disappointed in our performance tonight," head coach Kerstin Kimel said, "but it's also a testament to the great game that North Carolina played. They played an awesome game from start to finish. Unfortunately, this was not a great night for us to have the type of game that we had."
The Blue Devils jumped out to a 2-0 lead off back-to-back goals from redshirt junior Emma Hamm in the first three minutes of play, but the Duke offense would falter as North Carolina went on an 8-1 run over the next 17 minutes. The Tar Heels held a narrow margin in shots, 29-24, for the game, but utilized a 16-11 advantage in draw controls, including an 8-2 margin in the second frame, to control possession.
"We took 24 shots for the game and scored eight goals," added Kimel. "That's not very typical of us. We did not do a great job of capitalizing on our opportunities at all. We can't shoot 30 percent in an ACC semifinal and expect to come out on the winning end."
Hamm, Duke's leader with 41 goals this season, would lead the Blue Devils with three goals and an assist in the game. Senior Christie Kaestner also tallied four points as the Trappe, Md., native notched two goals and two assists to bring her team-leading total to 37 assists in 2011. In addition, junior Kat Thomas added two goals, while sophomore Makenzie Hommel added a goal and senior Sarah Bullard dished out an assist.
The North Carolina offense boasted three players with three or more goals in the game as Becky Lynch and Laura Zimmerman led the way with four scores each. Tar Heel leading scorer Corey Donohoe also registered a hat trick in the contest.
After falling behind 8-3 by the 10:46 mark in the first half, Duke made a push to cut into the Tar Heels' five-goal advantage, starting with an unassisted score from Thomas. Duke added back-to-back goals with under 2:30 to go in the first frame, but Donohoe netted a goal with three seconds left in the half to give the Tar Heels a 10-6 cushion heading into the intermission.
North Carolina would then open the second stanza with a 5-1 run, effectively ending Duke's hopes of a comeback.
"The big things we talked about at halftime were making sure that we were communicating on the draw, and defensively I felt that we were off," said Kimel. "We wanted to make sure that we refocused on our game plan and on team defense, which I thought we really struggled on. North Carolina has a lot of threats and they did a really good job of playing fast and moving the ball and our defense had a hard time adjusting to the pace."
With the win, North Carolina regained a half a point in the standings for the 2010-11 Battle of the Blues presented by Continental Tire, the annual multi-sport competition between the two schools. North Carolina holds a 12.5-9.5 lead over Duke in the rivalry series with points for men's golf, men's and women's track & field and rowing still to be determined.
Duke will close out the regular season Friday, April 29, traveling to Philadelphia for a 7 p.m. tilt with Penn.