The 2011 season had not gone according to plan for Maryland's field hockey team. With all but three players returning from the 2010 national championship team, the Terrapins were viewed as the team to beat. But three regular season losses and a loss at home to Duke in the ACC semi-final left the Terps in the unusual position of being unseeded entering the NCAA Tournament.
Maryland hosted the first two rounds and the Terps comfortably handled Big Ten foe Iowa in the first round before netting a 3-2 overtime win against third seeded Syracuse. The quarter final win earned the squad a trip to Louisville and a semi-final matchup with the number two overall seed Old Dominion Monarchs. The Monarchs had beaten the Terrapins twice in the home and home regular season series both times by relatively lopsided margins - 4-0 in Norfolk and 5-2 in College Park.
Coming into the game, Coach Meharg and her staff developed an entirely new defensive game plan in an effort to counter the stretched midfield ODU used designed to get the ball in space to their star forward Emma Batten who had shredded Maryland for hat tricks in both regular season matchups. Old Dominion had scored just over two minutes into the first game and thirty-nine seconds into the second so coming into the game, I thought as a fan, that keeping the Monarchs off the board early and scoring first would be critical to the team's psyche and when ODU drew a penalty corner just five minutes in, I held my breath. The Terp defense came up with the big stop as did senior goalkeeper Melissa Vassalotti coming with a big save on Batten's first shot.
From that point, Maryland began to turn things around a bit pressuring Old Dominion's defense and drawing two penalty corners of their own. When the Monarchs' goalie was able to save but not contain Jemma Buckley's hard shot off the second of those two corners, Coleen Gulick was in the right spot to knock in the rebound and put the Terps on top 1-0 fourteen and a half minutes into the first half. Following another save by Vassalotti, Maryland star and soon to be Honda Award winner Megan Frazer, calmly dribbled into the circle, faked left and pulled right before blasting a rocket past ODU's befuddled goalie. The Terps took that 2-0 lead into halftime.
After Maryland got off the opening shots of the second half - squeezing two of their four shots for the period into the first four minutes or so - ODU really turned up the heat. They kept the Terrapin defense on their heels and peppered Vassalotti who came up with three big saves in an eleven minute span. Harriett Tibble, who was never known as a prolific scorer at Maryland, surprised everyone when she stopped Katie Gerzabek's penalty corner insertion and shot it herself. The result was a 3-0 Terrapin lead. Just over a minute later when Jemma Buckley scored off a centering pass from Jill Witmer it was all over but the shouting and the Terps had gotten their win when it counted the most.
The underdog role, some outside the box thinking by the coaches in building the game plan, and perfect execution by her focused team place this one as number four on the list of Coach Meharg's all-time Maryland wins.