By Brandon Schwartzberg
As the clock wound down in the second overtime, it started to look like a shootout was on the horizon. That was until Liberty had a 2-on-1 advantage, when defender Jodie Conolly fired a shot past Noelle Frost into the back of the cage, scoring the game winner to send the Flames to the National Championship for the first time in school history.
No. 5 Maryland field hockey took on No. 9 Liberty in an exciting NCAA Final Four battle Friday afternoon. Regulation time wasn’t enough, as the game went into double overtime, where Liberty prevailed in a 3-2 classic.
Only three minutes into the game, Maryland had a golden opportunity to get on the board first with a penalty corner. However, good Flames defense blocked the Terps shot, keeping the game scoreless. Only two minutes later, Liberty was awarded their first penalty corner of the day.
Bethany Dykema fired the ball into the goal, but a great diving save from Maryland goalkeeper Noelle Frost kept the game locked in a 0-0 tie.
The tempo slowed down the rest of the first quarter as the defensive intensity picked up. After four total shots within the first four minutes of the game, only one more shot was attempted the rest of the quarter. That was until Liberty was awarded back-to-back penalty corners with only five seconds left in the quarter.
Maryland’s corner defense held strong, not allowing the Flames to find a clear shot. At the end of the corner sequence, the first quarter buzzer sounded, with the game in a scoreless tie.
With ten minutes remaining in the second quarter, Liberty was awarded its fourth penalty corner of the half. Liberty had three different shot attempts off the send-in, but none found the back of the cage.
The Flames’ best chance to score came on their last shot during the sequence, when forward Ellie Livingston had the right side of the cage open after the whole Maryland defense converged on the left. Livingston’s shot missed wide, ruining an excellent opportunity to get on the board first.
With the game still scoreless after two quarters of play, both teams looked to make halftime adjustments on the offensive end. Each squad missed numerous golden opportunities to score off penalty corners, with both teams attempting at least three corners in the first half.
In overall shots, Maryland out-shot Liberty 11-6 in the first half. While both teams had scoring chances, both defenses had excellent close-out rotations in the first half.
With just under four minutes gone by in the third quarter, Liberty scored the first goal of the game.
After gaining possession of the ball, midfielder Maddie Hosler found forward Jill Bolton. Bolton raced in transition, put a move on Frost, and fired the ball past the outstretched arms of Frost into the back of the cage to put the Flames up 1-0.
Late in the quarter, Liberty tacked on an insurance goal. Forward Charlotte Vaanhold tapped in a rebound in the air in front of the goal past Frost, extending the Flames lead to 2-0.
Not even a minute later with the clock winding down in the third quarter, Maryland scored a huge goal to even out the momentum.
Maryland pushed the ball in transition, looking for a score before the fourth quarter ensued. After a Terp and Flame each stabbed at the ball at the same time, the ball went up into the air. Midfielder Bibi Donraadt knocked the ball out of the sky into the back of the cage, trimming the Flames lead to one entering the fourth.
Shortly into the fourth quarter, Maryland was awarded three straight penalty corners but couldn’t capitalize on any of their opportunities.
With less than five minutes remaining in regulation, Maryland was given their best chance to score with a penalty stroke. Big Ten Freshman of the Year Hope Rose rocketed the ball past the Liberty goalkeeper, making it a brand new ballgame, with the score 2-2 entering overtime.
With less than five minutes left in the first overtime, both teams were awarded penalty corner opportunities, but excellent defense from each side kept the game going into a second overtime.
With the clock winding down in the second overtime, Liberty pushed the ball in transition. With a 2-on-1 advantage, the Flames’ Jodie Conolly rocketed the ball past Frost into the back of the net, clinching Liberty’s spot in the National Championship, while Maryland’s season came to an end.
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