The world of Terpland seemed to be back on its axis Friday night as the Terrapins' top ranked field hockey squad was a rude host to Virginia soundly defeating the fifth ranked team 4-1 while in Chapel Hill Maryland's volleyball team dropped another five set heartbreaker to the number fourteen Tar Heels.
The Terps got off to an outstanding start racing out to a 5-1 lead in the opening set winning a sideout on the first point followed by four straight behind Mary Cushman's serving. The home team twice worked their way back into the match. After seeing their lead shrink to one at 9-8, Maryland ran off four straight on a sideout and Amy Dion's serve to regain a five point margin. Trailing 13-8, Carolina scored seven of the next nine to even the score at fifteen. But the Terps dug in and didn't allow UNC to edge in front and back to back kills by Ashleigh Crutcher played into a three point run that gave Maryland an 18-15 advantage. Maryland held control from that point forward winning the set by a 25-21 final score.
The second set was a horse of a different color and that color was Carolina Blue. After the Terrapins took a 2-1 lead, the Tar Heels went on an 8-1 run to go up by six. The set just got worse from there. A block by Emily Fraik and Kelsey Hrebenach stopped Carolina's momentum but only briefly. With the score standing at 9-4, UNC immediately won a sideout followed by five straight on serve to put Maryland in a ten point hole. When the dust settled, the final score was UNC 25 UMD 13.
The third set looked as if it would be more of the same. The home team came out of the break to take a quick 4-1 lead. They not so gradually built that lead to nine at 16-7. But the Terps began to claw their way back into the match. A sideout block by Ashlyn MacGregor and Emily Fraik followed by a service ace from Sarah Harper and an attack error by Carolina pulled Maryland within six. The Terrapin deficit fluctuated between six and four and when UNC served for the set at 24-20 things got exciting for Terp fans. A service error pulled Maryland within 24-21. Catie Coyle and Adreene Elliott shared a block that made the score 24-22. A kill by Coyle and the Terps were within one. That was as close as they would get as the Heels closed out the set 25-23.
In the fourth set, the Terps again found themselves playing from behind as they dug an early 6-2 hole. A sideout that closed the gap to 7-4 brought Whitney Craigo to serve for Maryland. The freshman responded by serving up three consecutive aces followed by points with kills from Mary Cushman and Elliott. Suddenly, the Tar Heels found themselves looking up at a 10-7 deficit of their own. Carolina managed to stay within three through the middle of the set before making a push to recapture a 20-19 lead. But the Terps had a response running off five straight to reach set point. UNC staved off one point on a sideout but that would be their last hurrah as Elliott sent down the kill giving Maryland the set at 25-21 and squaring the match at two sets apiece.
The first half of the fifth set was a back and forth affair. North Carolina opened a 5-3 lead but Maryland quickly tied things up at five. The teams tied again at six and seven before the Heels again edged out to a two point margin. The Terps came back again knotting things up at ten but a four point UNC run proved fatal and the Terps fell 15-11.
Three Terps reached double digits in kills. Ashleigh Crutcher led the way with 16 while Mary Cushman added 12 and Adreene Elliott put away 10 while leading Maryland with a .296 hitting percentage. Cushman's twelve digs gave her a double-double. Amy Dion added 10 digs to her 16 assists for a double-double of her own while Sarah Harper led the Terps in digs with 17 and Whitney Craigo led with 19 assists. The Terps take on NC State in Raleigh at five pm on Saturday before returning home for a rare midweek match against ACC newcomer the Pittsburgh Panthers Wednesday night.
The good news of the evening came, unsurprisingly from the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex where the top ranked Terrapins, coming off their first loss of the season, topped the fifth ranked Virginia Cavaliers by a 4-1 final. The Terps looked like a completely different team from the one that faced Old Dominion on Sunday controlling the ball and the pace of play from the outset.
In the days since Sunday's loss, Maryland worked on playing two touch hockey which, according to junior forward Welma Luus is, "Early passing. Receiving and giving. That helped us a lot today instead of just carrying the ball." And the play opened up a number of early chances for the Terps - the first coming just over four minutes in when Jill Witmer redirected Sarah Sprink's hard shot from the top of the circle for a quick 1-0 Maryland lead. The Terps continued to put pressure on the Cavaliers defense earing a penalty corner in the eighth minute and having a good chance from Mieke Hayn in the tenth. In the thirteenth minute, Anna Dessoye plated a cross from the right to Maxine Fluharty who was in open space in the circle and the junior drove her shot into the upper right corner of the cage giving the Terps a 2-0 lead just over twelve and a half minutes in. Virginia got their first penalty corner with 19:07 to play but the shot didn't get past the Maryland defense and the carom led to another golden opportunity for the Terps by Virginia goalkeeper Jenny Johnstone made two outstanding saves first on Dessoye's shot and again on Witmer's follow-up. Johnstone came up big again on a rocket by Ali McEvoy on a Maryland penalty corner with just over ten minutes remaining in the half. With just under two minutes left, the Terps picked up their third short corner of the half and capitalized despite Johnstone making back to back saves on hard drives by Sprink. As the goal scorer Fluharty explained, "We had everyone in the right position on that corner. If you looked around it was like a circle of us around them and we were almost boxing them out. There defense was behind us so it was just a matter of time before it went in the cage." And in the cage it went giving the Terrapins a 3-0 halftime lead.
Virginia made some adjustments at the half possessing the ball better and coming out much more aggressively than they had to open the game. After being held to a single shot in the first half, the Cavs would take nine in the second several of which forced Maryland's keeper, Natalie Hunter, into acrobatic saves. The Cavaliers scored their lone goal off a well executed penalty corner when Katie Robinson deflected Elly Buckley's shot over an outstretched Hunter in the forty-ninth minute. Just four minutes later, however, Luus scored one of her typically stylish goals when she picked up a pass from Sprink that a Cavalier had deflected and sent bouncing at an odd angle. The junior from South Africa who also plays for Maryland's tennis team controlled the awkwardly bouncing ball and drove in a hard shot from the top right of the circle. From that point forward it was the Terrapin defense, anchored by solid play from Kasey Tapman and some exceptional goalkeeping from Hunter that stole the show. After the game, coach Missy Meharg commented, "It wasn't just the way they played tonight. It was Wednesday's training and yesterday's training. They're just really looking for each other and knocking it off and reshaping on offense and defense and very rarely were we in squares and straight lines. We were in triangles and always ready for balls to be dropped. Like a wingman type of thing."
The win keeps the Terps unbeaten in ACC play and locked up the number one seed and only bye in the upcoming ACC Tournament. Maryland closes out their home season Sunday when they host Georgetown for a 1 pm start that will also be senior day. Six seniors will be recognized for their contributions to Terrapin field hockey: forwards Shelby Sydnor and Jill Witmer, defenders Christine Knauss, Ali McEvoy, and Hayley Turner, and goalkeeper Natalie Hunter.