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One down three to go. Terps handle AU 4-1

Two goals by Katie Gerzabek and solid defense lead Maryland into the round of eight.

The Maryland Terrapins field hockey team moved into the round of eight for the sixth consecutive year downing local rival American University by a 4-1 final. The Terps will face Princeton a 5-4 winner over Penn State for the chance to go to the Final Four. Maryland defeated Princeton 3-1 earlier this season after having lost to the Tigers in last season’s national semi-final.

The game didn’t start well for the Terrapins as the Eagles drew a penalty corner just forty seconds into the match. The Maryland defense deflected the shot high and no harm resulted. After a Terrapin takeaway, tri-captain Sarah Sprink sent a long through pass to Mieke Hayn. The freshman used her quickness to drive into the circle but AU goalkeeper Ashley Dalisera made a strong kick save.

In her post game comments, Maryland coach Missy Meharg noted, "American is an excellent team. Today they brought a very different game than they did when we played them earlier in the season." The Eagles bore this out seeming to have the better of the run of play possessing the ball in dangerous positions for much of the first half including a well executed penalty corner in the twelfth minute that required a big kick save by Terrapin goalkeeper Natalie Hunter to keep AU off the board.

Despite American’s advantage in the general flow of the game with their long possessions bottling up Maryland’s usually potent offense, the Terps got on board first responding off the penalty corner with a strong counter. Anna Dessoye took a pass in the center of the circle from Steffi Schneid and sent a high shot off Dalisera’s pad into the back of the cage. With not quite thirteen minutes gone and despite being outplayed, the Terps had a 1-0 lead.

As if sensing that they would have to make the most of limited opportunities, the Terps needed just three minutes to extend their lead. Jill Witmer made a long run possessing the ball from midfield before making a fake to her right and using her speed to blow by an Eagles defender into the center of the circle where she spotted Katie Gerzabek hovering in open space outside the right post. The junior took the pass and quickly put it into the cage for the first of her two goals on the day.

The two goal edge didn’t hold up very long as AU continued to press and impress. Barely a minute and a half after the Terps scored the Eagles came back with a goal of their own coming off a penalty corner.

The Eagles continued to play well, holding possession and keeping Maryland’s offense contained. Late in the half though, an AU turnover led to a Terrapin fast break. Dessoye made a long pass ahead to Witmer on the right side and the ACC’s Offensive Player of the Year made the most of the opportunity driving her shot inside the left post. The Terps took that 3-1 lead into the break.

The second half belonged to the Maryland defense. This time it was the Terps who had long possessions and throttled American’s offense. After and early, somewhat vanilla, penalty corner in the thirty-seventh minute, in which Sarah Sprink’s shot went wide, neither team mounted any serious threats though the Terps had a few opportunities. Meanwhile, American was having trouble simply gaining any possession inside the twenty-five. Senior defender Hayley Turner noted after the game, "We were all kind of flat in the first half in the defense. In the second half we knew exactly what we had to do so we just gritted down and picked it up."

With eight minutes to play, the Terps picked up an insurance goal on a perfectly executed penalty corner. Gerzabek inserted and Ali McEvoy flipped a backhanded pass to Steffi Schneid who quickly flicked a pass to an open Gerzabek at the left post for the easy score. Sunday’s game against Princeton starts at 2 pm. Some of you whit basketball tickets might want to come out early a catch the number one team in the country playing for a chance to go to the Final Four.