Meharg's Top Win - Double Overtime Thriller

Put the two best teams in the country in a rematch of the previous year's title game. Stir in the final home game for Maryland's all-time leading scorer, add a record crowd and two overtimes and you've cooked up Coach Missy Meharg's top win at Maryland.

So I have to admit I both breathed a sigh of relief and let out an "Oy vey!" when I got to the number one win on Coach Meharg's list. (These games were her choices, by the way.) The relief came because in the "Favorite ACC Memory" series I chose the 2010 field hockey National Championship game. The "Oy!" is because I've already written about it and now have to figure out how I'm going to bring a slightly different spin to that game.

I remember the day as being sunny and pleasant for late November in College Park - probably in the high 40s or low 50s. I remember looking around the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex astonished at the number of people that kept streaming in. The announced crowd of 2,381 is small by comparison to most sports but for someone who'd sat though many chilly nights at that same field with only a few hundred people, this scene was electrifying.

The Terps entered the game with a record of 22-1 with the only blemish being a loss at Princeton. UNC, the defending national champions came in with a record of 22-2 with both of their losses coming at the hands (and legs) Maryland. The Terps had edged out a 3-2 win in College Park during the regular season and had thrashed the Tar Heels by a final of 5-2 just two weeks earlier in the ACC Championship game.

The host team got off to a quick start securing and converting a penalty corner just four and a half minutes in the action. The play began typically enough with Katie O'Donnell inserting the pass to Harriet Tibble. Tibble made the stop and pushed the ball to Jemma Buckley in the circle. At this point, the Terps flipped the script a bit. Rather than taking a direct shot to passing the ball to a flashing O'Donnell at the left post, Buckley passed to freshman Haley Turner at the right post and Turner redirected the pass around a flat footed Carolina defender and through the legs of the surprised Tar Heel goalie.

The teams jockeyed for position through the remainder of the half and as the clock wound down, it looked as though the 1-0 would stand up. Such was not the case as UNC drew a penalty corner and scored with just thirty seconds to play in the half. The momentum they gained from the late goal carried through to the beginning of the second half and the Tar Heels converted another corner just over six minutes in to take a 2-1 lead. This was a typically strong Carolina defense that had yielded only 13 goals all season to teams not named Maryland so for most teams, trailing UNC by even a single goal with twenty nine minutes to play might seem a daunting task but not necessarily for the Terrapins because they had racked up nine goals in their now two and a half games against the Tar Heels.

And the Terps turned up the pressure as O'Donnell, Jill Witmer, and Ali McEvoy all launched shots over the next twelve minutes. However, North Carolina's senior goalie, Jackie Kinzer, was up to the task making saves on all three attempts. The clock wound deeper into the half. Sixteen minutes to play. Twelve. Eight. Seven minutes and thirty seconds. Is that Harriet Tibble coming up the left side? She can't shoot from that angle but she does. The shot goes to the far right corner. The score is tied! It is Tibble's first and only goal of the season.

UNC comes back quickly on the restart after the goal. The attack comes like lightning. This time, it's Maryland's goalie, junior Melissa Vassalotti who comes up with the big save. The Terps have one final chance in the waning moments but Jill Witmer's shot goes wide and we are headed to overtime.

For those who don't know, field hockey becomes a bit more wide open in overtime as the teams play seven versus seven as opposed to eleven against eleven in regulation and against most teams the seven players Coach Meharg puts on the field are generally better than the seven opposing players. But UNC is the defending national champion so this overtime will likely be between two evenly matched squads. And so it appeared to be. North Carolina threw the first punches getting off three shots in the first five minutes but Vassalotti came up with two big saves and the Maryland defense stifled the other. Now it's the Terps turn to counter and they manage three shots - with two coming off penalty corners - but Kinzer saves two and the last goes wide with no time left on the clock. We're headed to another fifteen minute sudden victory showdown.

The second overtime is all Maryland. Carolina is on their heels under an almost relentless Maryland attack but Kinzer continues making big saves. With just over six minutes to go, Maryland's all-time leading scorer, Katie O'Donnell has the ball coming down the right side on a breakaway. Kinzer come put of the goal! O'Donnell winds up to shoot. Kinzer slides! O'Donnell goes down! That's a penalty! No! The official holds her whistle. The crowd is stunned but the game goes on.

Now, there's under three minutes before the game goes to a penalty stroke shootout. The Terps attack but Carolina intercepts. They attempt to clear but here comes O'Donnell on defense. She makes the steal and with her back to the goal passes to Megan Frazer and I'll leave what happened next to Brian Kapur on WMUC sports:


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