The University of Maryland field hockey team made it sixth consecutive Final Four appearance and for the second consecutive year fell one goal short of playing for a national championship. After defeating Duke 5-1 in the regular season and securing a 3-2 overtime win in the ACC Tournament the Terps faced the Blue Devils for the third time in three weeks, and the squad from Durham took home the most important win by a 3-2 final.
Duke was the aggressor early and scored the first goal. After poking the ball free from Alyssa Parker, Duke penetrated the scoring circle and took the first shot of the game. Terrapin goalkeeper Natalie Hunter made a relatively easy kick save pushing the ball out past the twenty-five yard line. The Devils were quicker to the loose ball and returned to the attack. Emmie Le Marchand found Jessica Buttinger in an open spot inside Maryland's defense and she punched the ball in from about four yards just under three minutes in.
As they had done for much of the year, the Terps responded quickly needing just over two minutes to tie the score. Kasey Tapman intercepted a long Duke pass and drove up the right side of the field. She played a little give and go with Parker. Tapman launched her shot and Duke's keeper Lauren Blazing made the kick save. However, the ball came out dangerously high earning Maryland their first penalty corner. Anna Dessoye inserted to Sarah Sprink. Sprink's shot clanged off the right post but Hayley Turner was in position to pick up the rebound and find the back of the cage.
Maryland needed just over a minute and a half to earn another set piece. With just under 29 minutes to play in the half, Mieke Hayn picked up a long pass and drove the ball into the circle where strong work on the ball created another penalty corner opportunity for the Terrapins. As she would do repeatedly, Blazing came up with the save - this one on Ali McEvoy's driving shot. But Maryland continued their pressure and drew a third penalty corner less than a half minute later. McEvoy made a back pass to Steffi Schneid but the Blue Devils' defense blocked the shot. The ball careened around the circle and both Turner and Jill Witmer had chances but Duke's defense deflected Turner's shot and Balzing came up with the save on Witmer's.
The Terps continued to press forward but were not crisp with their passing as Maryland coach Missy Meharg pointed out after the game, "Each time we play a game we talk about having two games in one and being able to sustain for thirty-five minutes for each of those games. Today our first game was at fifty percent. We were out of sync, we weren't passing the ball quickly and our individual defense was slow in footwork." All of that combined to help Duke pick up their first and only penalty corner of the half with just over eighteen minutes remaining. The Blue Devil's executed the corner perfectly and the shot from the left found the far post to put Duke up 2-1. The goal reenergized the Devils and they would go up by two ten minutes later when Le Marchand took a long pass down the left side into the circle. Hunter blocked the first shot but Le Marchand picked up her own rebound and netted the score.
Though Maryland didn't immediately answer the second goal with a goal, the Terps responded quickly to Duke's third needing just forty-six seconds to score. It began when Jill Witmer intercepted a pass near midfield on a Duke restart from their own twenty-five. Showing her speed, the ACC Offensive Player of the Year drove down the right side. Duke's defense blocked her first attempt to get the ball into the circle but the pass caromed right back to Witmer who drove it to the baseline. Anna Dessoye redirected the centering pass into the cage to pull Maryland within one with just under seven minutes left in the half. Neither team managed a shot for the remainder of the period and Duke took the one goal lead into the locker room.
Maryland looked much more like Maryland in the second half dominating Duke from the start. The Terps peppered Blazing in the second half launching eleven shots to the Blue Devils' two. Though she was aided by solid play from a Duke defense that often forced Maryland to shoot from difficult scoring angles, afforded her clear looks at Maryland's shots, and effectively cleared rebounds, the second team All-ACC performer was simply on fire registering eight saves in the half.
The Terps' best chances from the field came first in the thirty-eighth minute when Maxine Fluharty took a long pass from Witmer had an open look for a backhander from the left side but didn't get enough on it allowing Blazing to make the save and then with just under three minutes to play when Witmer and Katie Gerzabek had back to back chances but again Blazing came up with saves on both shots. Maryland also had three penalty corners in the second half all of which were on cage and all of which Blazing saved.
Although they are not playing for a national championship, the current senior class clearly left their mark on Maryland's field hockey program. They conclude their careers with two ACC Tournament championships, two national championships, four Final Fours and an 80-16 overall record.