Like the rain Friday night, the Maryland field hockey team was persistent. Though the Terps had only one outburst, it proved sufficient for a 3-1 Terrapin win over the last team to defeat them, the defending national champion Princeton Tigers.
Princeton surprised the Terps with the speed of their play and aggressive trapping defensive pressure. After an early steal, Maryland needed over a minute and a half of possession to simply move the ball out of the midfield and into the attacking zone. "This is not the team that we saw on video preparing for this match," Maryland coach Missy Meharg opined after the game. "I'm just very proud of the Maryland team for being able to bring out the best in Princeton's squad tonight," she added.
The Tigers had the game's first scoring opportunity countering quickly after a steal and earning back to back penalty corners just over two and a half minutes into the game. The Terrapin defense blocked the first but couldn't successfully clear and goalkeeper Natalie Hunter registered the first of her six saves on the second. Over the ensuing seven minutes, Maryland probed Princeton's defense eventually finding an opening for their first penalty corner. As Hunter had done several minutes earlier, Princeton goaltender Anya Gersoff picked up the first of her six saves.
The momentum of the game seemed to take a subtle shift toward Princeton over the middle third of the half. The Tigers had a second penalty corner chance in the nineteenth minute but the Terrapin defense again came up with the block. An even more dangerous sequence arose late in the twenty-second and early in the twenty-third minutes when Maryland's defense briefly lost its shape and Princeton had two excellent scoring opportunities. However, Hunter came up big on the first and Steffi Schneid did the same on the second clearing the ball out of the scoring circle.
Surviving this dangerous exchange ignited the Terps and a quick counter led to a blistering shot off the stick of Jill Witmer but Gersoff came up with an acrobatic sliding save. Witmer had another chance in the thirty-first minute but Gersoff picked up her low drive with relative ease. With time winding down, senior defender Ali McEvoy lofted a long aerial as Anna Dessoye and Witmer raced behind the Princeton defense. The attack forced Gersoff out of the cage and she managed to deflect Dessoye's shot. However, Witmer was there for the rebound and she made this one count giving Maryland a 1-0 lead with just over a minute to play in the half. "The goalie rebounded it and I was just there to back it up and I just hit it high because I was so frustrated because my other two shots I hit low and she saved them both so I thought, ‘I'm getting this one high'," Witmer said.
The goal at the end of the first half started a Maryland downpour that carried over into the second. Emma Rissinger quickly double the Terrapin lead scoring off a long hit from the top of the circle by Maxine Fluharty just a minute and four seconds in. But the Terps weren't quite finished needing just another 1:47 to register their third goal. This time, Sarah Sprink drove a perfect ball to Witmer who "brought it around my body and put it in the back." The goal was the sixtieth of Witmer's career tying her for fifth place on Maryland's all time goal scoring list.
Trailing by three, the Tigers began to play with a bit more desperation earning a corner that the Terrapin defense turned away in the forty-fourth minute before finally breaking through in the forty ninth minute. The Terps faced one more scare on another Tigers penalty corner in the fifty-eighth minute. This time Hunter made two saves in rapid succession needing to react quickly to block the rebound when the first save caromed high into the air. Princeton never threatened again as Maryland secured the 3-1 victory.
The Terps travel to American University for a Sunday matchup before returning home for another high profile contest with the third ranked Syracuse Orange.
For those among you who noticed I've been absent from the site for the past week because my father died on October 4. I expect I will be back and filling these pages with recaps and puns going forward though I will probably need a few days to get back in the rhythm of writing about many sports at once. I appreciate your patience.
I will note that men's soccer played to a 3-3 tie at Virginia. This is Maryland's fifth tie of the season and third in ACC play. Patrick Mullins had a hand in all three Terrapin goals, assisting on the first and scoring the second and third giving him eight for the season. All the scoring came in the first half for both squads. The Terps open a three game home stand Tuesday night when they take on the Marshall Thundering Herd. Just a brief side note and update: The Terps are now 5-2-5 overall and 4-0-3 in ACC play. In a quick scan of the record book, the five ties equal the most in a season (1974 & 2007) and three ties in league play is an all time high.
In Tallahassee, the Maryland volleyball team fell in straight sets to Florida State. The scores were 25-19, 25-23, and 25-14. Judging from the scores and final statistics, the Terps didn't do much well. They hit only 0.85 for the match with only seven blocks and a fifty-two percent side out percentage. Maryland continues its swing through the Sunshine State with a trip to Miami for a Sunday match with the Hurricanes.