Nov. 20, 2008
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - In the hometown of Muhammed Ali, the Maryland field hockey team hopes that, by the end of the weekend, it will be crowned The Greatest. Into their fifth Final Four in the past six seasons, the top-ranked and top-seeded Terrapins will next have to contend with the Iowa Hawkeyes, the tournament's No. 4 seed and winner of one of the more unusual games in NCAA Tournament history.
After their first practice at Trager Stadium on the campus of the University of Louisville on Thursday, the Terps joined Iowa, Syracuse and Wake Forest at a banquet held at the Muhammed Ali Center in downtown Louisville to honor the Final Four participants. Prior to the start of the banquet, the team enjoyed a private tour through the museum.
Along with representatives from the other participating schools, seniors Ellen Ott (Schwenksville, Pa./Perkiomen Valley) and Susie Rowe (London, England/Colfe's School) represented the team with a speech about the opportunities afforded them by the game of field hockey. Seniors Danielle Keeley (Elkton, Md/North East), Sarah Scholl (Center Valley, Pa./Southern Lehigh) and Emma Thomas (High Wycombe, England/Wycombe) were also honored at the event.
With the banquet behind them, the Terps (20-2) now turn their attention fully to the task of defeating Iowa (18-4) and advancing to their third national title game in four years. Maryland has an all-time record of 7-3 against the Hawkeyes, but the programs have not met since 1999.
That latest matchup also came in a national semifinal, with the Terps emerging with a 2-1 victory in overtime. Maryland would go on to claim its third national title that year, defeating Michigan 2-1 in the title game.
In fact, Friday's game will mark the fifth time that Iowa and Maryland have met in the NCAA Tournament, the fourth that such a meeting has occurred in the semifinals. Maryland is 4-0 thus far against Iowa in the NCAA Tournament and followed their triumphs over the Hawkeyes in the semifinals of 1987 and 1993 with national championships.
Iowa earned its berth in the Final Four with a 1-0 defeat of Michigan State last weekend. The Hawkeyes and Spartans played to a scoreless tie through the first half on Sunday, playing through a steady snow. At intermission, the storm increased in intensity and, after just eight minutes of play using orange balls in the second half, the game was delayed with the final 27 minutes to be played on Monday.
When the teams returned to action, Iowa scored early in the action and held on for its 1-0 triumph.
The champions of the ACC and Big Ten will square off Friday at Trager Stadium on the campus of the University of Louisville at 5:00 p.m. The NCAA will be airing a webcast of today's games here. Fans can also follow the action on WMUC Sports at www.WMUCSports.com.
Complete NCAA Tournament information is available here.