Playing on the road in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament is an unusual position for Maryland field hockey but the Terps started their journey to defend their title in Storrs, CT today taking on the Lafayette Leopards. The Terrapins came out determined to put pressure on the Leopards form the opening with Haley Turner and Jill Witmer each getting a shot off in the first two minutes of the game. Turner’s shot was saved and Witmer’s went wide but the tone of the game was set. After a foul on Lafayette, Ali McEvoy sent a long aerial pass down the right side that was smartly corralled by Witmer who centered it to freshman Anna Dessoye just outside the scoring circle. Dessoye calmly dribbled into the circle and smacked a shot past the sliding Lafayette goalie giving the Terps an early 1-0 lead in the 4th minute. Just forty seconds later, Maryland would draw the first of their two penalty corners for the half but were not able to capitalize. The Terps would continue to dominate play throughout the half with much of the action contained in Lafayette’s end of the field. Despite the persistent pressure Lafayette’s defense played well and continually denied the Maryland opportunities. The Terps had a good opportunity in the 33rd minute after killing a two minute green card penalty on Dessoye but Megan Frazer’s shot went wide. Notwithstanding a significant statistical imbalance with two corners to none and having out shot Lafayette 7-0, when the buzzer sounded the Terps carried only a 1-0 edge into the half.
Maryland maintained their aggressive play from the beginning of the second half seemingly determined to keep forcing the ball into the scoring area and keeping the Leopards on their heels. The Terps would draw two penalty corners in the first eight minutes but again couldn’t capitalize with Sprink’s first shot attempt – a drag flick – going wide and her second blocked by the Lafayette goalie. Continuing to control the play and maintain possession in the Leopards’ end of the field, Jill Witmer developed nice opportunities in the 50th and 54th minutes but again the Lafayette defense held. In the 57th minute, Lafayette was able to manage its first shot of the game but Terrapin goalie Natalie Hunter watched the ball roll harmlessly wide of the cage. Maryland’s pressure finally paid off in the 60th minute as Witmer, standing at the far post was able to easily redirect the carom of Janessa Pope’s shot into a relatively open net. At last the Terps had their insurance goal. Pressing forward with a greater sense of urgency and perhaps desperation, Lafayette was able to launch its first and only shot on goal in the 67th minute but Hunter was solid making a nice kick save. The Terps were content to run out the clock and neither team threatened the other’s goal as the Terps advanced to tomorrow’s second round game where they will face the host school and third seeded Connecticut Huskies who moved on with a 2-1 double overtime win over Northeastern. UConn is looking for its second consecutive trip to the Final Four where they lost a heartbreaker to last year’s national runner-up North Carolina. Tomorrow’s game time is set for 2 pm.