Nov. 21, 2008
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - In a national semifinal game which could not have been any closer, the Maryland field hockey team converted where Iowa could not in the second overtime period, scoring on a penalty corner to earn a 2-1 victory and a trip to the national championship game. Sophomore Katie O'Donnell swept in the deciding score in the 89th minute of play on a frigid night in Louisville, Ky., just moments after junior goalie Alicia Grater turned away two consecutive penalty corners for the Hawkeyes.
Senior Susie Rowe, who assisted on the clinching goal, suffered a gash across nose which forced her from the game for four minutes in the second half. The captain from London, England returned to the game, battling through a physical struggle with the Hawkeyes to remain a vital piece of the Terps' defense throughout the contest.
Alicia Grater (Gilbertsville, Pa./Boyertown Area) finished with six saves, none more important than three diving saves early in the second overtime period. The Hawkeyes had three open looks at the cage - the latter two coming off penalty corners, but Grater thwarted each of their attempts. Iowa outshot the Terps 11-10.
Both teams struggled to maintain much offensive flow on an icy field as temperatures dropped throughout the evening. Although Iowa (18-5) dominated the time of possession for much of the first half, it was the Terrapins (21-2) who scored first when, with 5:11 remaining in the first half, junior Nicole Muracco poked in a rebounded save.
The score was Muracco's 24th of the season, tying her for the third-most prolific season in Terps history.
As the sun set over Trager Stadium, the two teams came out to an increasingly slick field in the second half. Once again, neither team could muster much offensive flow, although each had scoring opportunities which were turned away by strong shorthanded defense.
After calling a time out, though, Iowa earned a penalty corner midway through the period and capitalized when Lauren Pfeiffer lined a shot low and to Grater's right which snuck its way into the cage. The Hawkeyes had tied the score, and after neither team could light up the scoreboard in the final 13 minutes of regulation, the contest was pushed to overtime.
Maryland had a couple of strong opportunities in the first overtime period. Finally able to gain solid footing and possession of the ball, Katie O'Donnell (Blue Bell, Pa./Wissahickon) found Brianna Davies (Annville, Pa./Palmyra) darting inside the half circle. Davies dished it to Rowe, who had set up in front of the net. The senior put a strong shot on goal, but Iowa goalie Lissa Munley got a glove on it to poke it away.
Rowe got an even stronger chance moments later, when she got control of the ball in the half circle and ripped a rising backhanded shot which escaped the grasp of Munley, but clanged off the crossbar. By the slimmest of margins, Iowa was still alive.
The Hawkeyes had one significant chance in the first extra period, as they got a 2-on-1 breakaway heading into Maryland territory. Coming from behind the two Iowa players, senior Ellen Ott (Schwenksville, Pa./Perkiomen Valley) caught up and poked the ball away, preventing a shot on goal.
In the second overtime, Iowa turned up the pressure, but Grater was there to turn them away. Then, just over four minutes in, Maryland seized possession and pushed the ball upfield. Getting it into the circle, they got a penalty corner call. O'Donnell's inbounds pass went to Ott, who pushed it to Rowe. As the Iowa defense swarmed towards the top of the circle, Rowe found O'Donnell, left all alone to Munley's right, and the sophomore finished the play to get the win.
For the Terps, Sunday's game against the winner of Syracuse and Wake Forest will be their third national title game in four years. Maryland won it all in 2005 and 2006. Friday's victory marked the fifth over Iowa in NCAA Tournament play against no losses, the fourth in a national semifinal. After the previous three semifinal wins, Maryland went on to win the crown.
The national championship game will be Sunday at 1:00 p.m. on the campus of the University of Louisville. The game will be aired live on CBS College Sports. Fans can also follow the action online at www.NCAASports.com. WMUC Sports will cover the contest over the radio, with Joseph Flowers taking care of play-by-play duties at www.WMUCSports.com.
#6 Iowa (18-5) 0 1 0 0 - 1 #1 Maryland (21-2) 1 0 0 1 - 2 GOALS: UI, Lauren Pfeiffer (Caroline Blaum) 56:21. MD, Nicole Muracco (un) 29:49; Katie O'Donnell (Susie Rowe) 89:05. PENALTY CORNERS: UI 7, MD 4. SAVES: UI, Lissa Munley 4 (2 GA, 89:05); MD, Alicia Grater 6 (1 GA, 89:05). GREEN CARDS: UI, Katie Naughton (64:32); Roz Ellis (78:56). MD, Susie Rowe (46:52).