Nov. 16, 2008
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - It was a big day Sunday for Katie O'Donnell and the Maryland field hockey team as the Terrapins advanced to the Final Four with an 8-5 victory over Duke at the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex in College Park. O'Donnell, who saw a stellar freshman campaign cut short when the Terps were bounced in the second round of last year's NCAA Tournament, saw to it that history would not repeat itself with a goal and four assists in the Terps' romp.
"This is very exciting, and I want to see what all the excitement [at the Final Four] is about," O'Donnell said afterwards. "I've heard a lot of stories about being in the Final Four, so we're excited about getting back there."
This was not the same Terrapin team which had lost, 3-2, to the Blue Devils back in October. On that day, three Terps - O'Donnell, Alexis Pappas and Brianna Davies - were in the midst of a gold medal run for the United States at the Junior Pan American Games. With the team at full strength on Sunday, the Terps all but wrapped up a spot in their eighth Final Four in ten years by halftime.
Maryland never had a lead against the Blue Devils in the teams' first meeting, only managing to tie the score twice. That changed 5:25 into Sunday's game, but the Terps' goal scorer did not. Senior Susie Rowe (London, England/Colfe's School), who scored each of the team's goals in the first game with Duke, was the beneficiary of a perfectly executed penalty corner as seniors Ellen Ott (Schwenksville, Pa./Perkiomen Valley) and Emma Thomas (High Wycombe, England/Wycombe) assisted on Rowe's 26th goal of the season.
The Terps added their second goal ten minutes later, again off a penalty corner. Once again, it was Rowe who put the ball home, taking a dish from Alexis Pappas (Mount Joy, Pa./Donegal) and rocketing it towards the cage. Duke's goalie, Samantha Nelson, got a piece of the ball, but it was not enough to stop the lightning-fast shot as it trickled over the goal line.
With the two scores, Rowe made a little Terrapin history. Her four points on the day gave her 70 for the season, the first Terp ever to reach the 70-point plateau. Rowe passed Rachel Hiskins, who racked up 67 points in the 1999 season, for the best campaign in school history. With one more goal, Rowe will tie Lisa Buente's mark of 28 goals scored in a single season, a record which has stood since 1990.
Midway through the first half, it was clear that Rowe had the Blue Devils figured out. Having scored all four goals the Terps had managed off Duke all season, it was time for Rowe to get some help.
That help came from one of the players absent for that first game, sophomore Katie O'Donnell out of Blue Bell, Pa.
Enjoying a season which put herself in the top ten in Terrapin history, O'Donnell put on a dizzying display of ball handling all day. With just under ten minutes remaining in the first half, the sophomore gained possession and drove nearly the length of the field into the Duke half circle. Her moves drew Nelson out of the cage and deked the Duke goalie to the ground as O'Donnell passed behind Nelson to a streaking Sarah Scholl (Center Valley, Pa./Southern Lehigh), who finished the highlight-reel play with her sixth goal of the season.
Remarkably, the scene repeated itself almost exactly just two minutes later. Again, O'Donnell brought the ball upfield, again drawing Nelson out and tying her up. Again, it was Scholl who was there to accept the dish from O'Donnell, and once again Scholl capitalized. It was the senior's 93rd career game, but her first multi-goal output.
Maryland added a fifth tally just over a minute later, and again O'Donnell was right in the mix. With the ball near the baseline to Nelson's left, O'Donnell slammed a centering pass into a fray in front of the cage. With Duke players all around, it was junior Nicole Muracco (Sewell, N.J./Washington Township) who got a stick on the ball and poked it home.
After Duke scored twice, giving its fans hope of a miraculous comeback, O'Donnell displayed her scoring ability to put those hopes to rest. Inbounding a penalty corner to Ott, O'Donnell inched inbounds as Ott let a slow roller go along the top of the circle. After Rowe's fake shot distracted the defense, Thomas swept the ball to a wide-open O'Donnell, who scored from the right side of the net.
Again, the scores came in bunches for the Terps. Just two minutes later, Scholl ripped a hard shot in towards the goal and Muracco, positioned perfectly in front of the net, deflected it past the reach of the new Duke goalie Ali Cornolli, putting the Terps up 7-2.
Maryland's final goal came, once again, on the strength of O'Donnell's creativity. Taking a pass near midfield, O'Donnell found herself behind the defense, with only Cornolli to beat. Using what was quickly becoming a patented move, she lured the Blue Devils' goalie out towards the top of the circle, then deked her to the ground. O'Donnell then found a wide-open Brigitte Strother (Annapolis, Md./Broadneck), who knocked home her second goal of the season and the eighth of the day for the Terps.
The Terps will be in Louisville next Friday for the NCAA Semifinals, but who they will face is still yet to be determined. In a tie game, the Michigan State Spartans and Iowa Hawkeyes had to suspend play Sunday due to snow. The game will be resumed where it left off, midway through the second half, on Monday morning at 11 a.m.
#8 Duke (15-6) 1 4 - 5 #1 Maryland (20-2) 5 3 - 8 GOALS: DU, Marian Dickinson (Lauren Miller) 34:00; Laura Suchoski (Amie Survilla) 37:04; Laura Suchoski (Amie Survilla) 54:13; Rhian Jones (un) 67:12; Marian Dickinson (Lauren Miller) 70:00. MD, Susie Rowe (Ellen Ott, Emma Thomas) 5:25; Susie Rowe (Alexis Pappas) 14:31; Sarah Scholl (Katie O'Donnell) 26:20; Sarah Scholl (Katie O'Donnell) 28:36; Nicole Muracco (Katie O'Donnell) 29:43; Katie O'Donnell (Emma Thomas) 41:09; Nicole Muracco (Sarah Scholl) 43:26; Brigitte Strother (Katie O'Donnell) 63:15. PENALTY CORNERS: DU 9, MD 8. SAVES: DU, Samantha Nelson 1 (5 GA, 29:43); Ali Cornolli 4 (3 GA, 40:17). MD, Alicia Grater 0 (2 GA, 50:53); Melissa Vassalotti 4 (3 GA, 19:07). DEFENSIVE SAVES: DU, Stefanie Fee. MD, none. ATTENDANCE: 315