By Brandon Schwartzberg
The first round of the NCAA field hockey tournament begins Friday, as No. 5 Maryland (13-6) takes on No. 13 Virginia (12-8) at home in College Park.
Maryland and Virginia battled earlier this season in Charlottesville, when Maryland escaped with a 2-1 win on the road in early October. That game was a defensive battle, as all three goals were scored in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Big Ten Freshman of the Year Hope Rose scored the game winner in overtime for the Terps, providing her squad with a much needed win as Maryland entered the contest losers of two straight.
However, Maryland enters this game following a 3-2 loss to No. 4 Penn State in the Big Ten Quarterfinals.
The contest went back-and-forth all game, with both squads struggling to gain an advantage over the other. Both teams came out of the gate firing, looking to score quickly.
On their third penalty corner in the first quarter, Bibi Donraadt tipped the ball from right in front of the cage into the back of the net to put the Terps up first 1-0.
The Nittany Lions quickly responded on a strike from the top from Anna Simon, her first of three goals that day.
With the game tied 1-1, Maryland struck first in the second quarter. Hope Rose fired a rocket into the back of the cage off a penalty corner, putting the Terps back out in front.
But late in the quarter, Anna Simon struck again.
After a failed penalty corner, the Nittany Lions regained possession. With a defender closing in on her, Simon fired the ball past the outstretched legs of Maryland goalkeeper Noelle Frost, scoring the goal for Penn State and once again tying the game.
The game was scoreless in the third quarter as both teams ramped up the energy defensively.
Less than one minute into the fourth quarter, the deciding goal of the game was scored.
Simon scooped up a loose ball over the goal line before Frost could make a play on it, giving the Nittany Lions their first lead of the game.
Penn State’s defense held strong in the fourth quarter, not allowing a Maryland goal, as the Nittany Lions advanced to the next round of the Big Ten tournament, while the Terps went home in preparation for the NCAA tournament.
Following the loss, Maryland has leaned on its leaders in preparation for its tournament run. For graduate student Julianna Tornetta, it’s been going the extra mile that’s helped prepare her teammates for the road ahead.
“In terms of a leadership role, I tend to be more like a hard worker, like I think I lead through example. I always try to put in the extra run or the extra sprint defense,” Tornetta said.
Virginia fared better in the ACC tournament, defeating No. 14 Boston College in the quarterfinals and No. 6 Louisville in the semifinals before losing to No. 8 North Carolina in the ACC Championship.
In the game against the Tar Heels, the first half was dominated by defense. Only five total shots were put up following two quarters of action, as both teams struggled to find rhythm on offense.
ACC Offensive Player of the Year Erin Matson broke the scoreless tie in the third quarter for the Tar Heels. Matson deflected in an initial shot off a penalty corner into the upper corner of the net shortly into the quarter, giving North Carolina a slim 1-0 lead.
Four minutes into the fourth quarter, Virginia appeared to tie the game when Annie McDonough dribbled along the baseline before finding Adele Iacobucci in front of the net, who deflected the shot into the goal.
North Carolina challenged the play, and video review overturned the call on the field as McDonough had gone out of bounds before making the pass, and the goal was waved off.
Following that scare the North Carolina defense played strong to close out the game, holding off the Cavalier attack to win the ACC Championship.
Both Maryland and Virginia come into this battle looking to keep their season going, with the winner moving on to the NCAA Quarterfinals Sunday afternoon.
Even though Penn State comes in as the seeded team in Maryland’s bracket, the Terps are hosting this weekend’s games due to the Penn State home football game on Saturday.
“Our team played super well and well enough to be number five in the nation and host. So I’m not surprised that they picked us as the next team to host a regional but it’s super nice to be home,” coach Missy Meharg said.
The first round matchup on Friday is set to take place at 2:30 p.m. at the Field Hockey & Lacrosse Complex, following the No. 4 Penn State vs No. 10 Syracuse matchup at 12 p.m.