Saturday was a good day. Make that a very good day. At least for me. Because with the Terps win, it's always a good day. And, on Saturday, win they did. The important win for many of this site's visitors happened in East Hartford and that will receive plenty of coverage elsewhere. For those who have an interest in Maryland's Olympic sports teams, the winning took place in College Park starting in the morning when the second ranked Terrapin field hockey team routed the Columbia Lions by a 9-2 final.
The Lions, coached by Mary Beth Freeman, one time assistant to Maryland's Missy Meharg, came out aggressively drawing a penalty corner just under three minutes in. Maryland defended well, and goalkeeper Natalie Hunter notched a relatively easy kick save. The attack woke up the Terps, who had started a bit sluggishly - perhaps due to the 11:00 am start. They responded just under a minute later with sophomore Alyssa Parker driving along the left baseline through the Columbia defense and tucking a shot so softly into the corner that the officials needed a few minutes to find it. Continuing to press the Lions, the Terps got a quick steal after the restart and after seeing Hayley Turner's high shot saved, Maxine Fluharty drove along the right baseline and drove in a shot that left no doubt. Just 4:53 into the game the Terps led two to nothing. The offense went into a lull for all of about two and a half minutes before Maryland again found themselves attacking inside the scoring circle. The Lions defense blocked Jill Witmer's shot but the chaos created the Terrapins first corner of the morning. Fluharty put herself in the right spot to pick up the carom of Sarah Sprink's drive to make it 3-0 Terps. As they have throught the early season, Maryland continued to put pressure on Columbia's defense and goaltender peppering her with shot after shot and in the seventeenth minute, the assault paid off with goal number four as Emma Rissinger found Witmer with a perfect pass as she came in from the left and the senior drove in a shot to extend the lead to four.
With Maryland again pressing forward, Columbia was able to quickly counter and get behind the Terrapin defense but Hunter was up to the task and made the save on the Lions second and only shot of the half. Meharg explained the counter this way, "Because we're dominating the game most teams will have a lot of players under the ball so when they do come up with it they run out at top speed and then it's very, very critical that you have very quick organization and that can be confusing. It's like two chess lines and they run out and you've got to pick up and make a decision. You have to stop the ball first and we're working on that."
In the twenty seventh minute, the Terps scored again. Freshman Mieke Hayn took control of the ball near midfield and found a Parker streaking up the right side. Parker hit Welma Luus with a perfect pass that went between the legs of a Columbia defender and Luus unleashed a rocket from the left of the circle to give Maryland the 5-0 lead they would take into halftime.
The second half started a bit like the first with the Lions getting off the initial shot and the Terps responding with multiple opportunities. In the forty-sixth minute, Maryland freshman Delaney Leathers scored the first goal of her college career picking up the rebound off Ali McEvoy's shot and the score was 6-0 Maryland. The Terps struck again in the fifty-first minute when Jill Witmer drover the ball into the circle and blistered home a shot for her second score of the day. Next it was time for two more freshmen to join Leathers in scoring their first goals as collegians. First, Brooke Adler took a lofted pass from Luus from along the left baseline in the fifty-third minute. Just over a minute later redshirt freshman Emma Rissinger, who had picked up an assist on Witmer's first goal drove around her defender to score an unassisted goal. The Lions scored two late goals to gain a degree of respectability in the final but the Terps took the match 9-2. On Sunday, the Terps will face Miami of Ohio which upset twentieth ranked American 3-2 on Saturday.
From the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex, I trotted over to the Comcast Center Pavilion to watch the red hot Terrapin volleyball team take on the George Mason Patriots in their early match of the Maryland Invitational. Maryland came in with a 6-1 record and riding a four match winning streak. The Terps took an early 3-1 lead on back to back kills by senior outside hitter and tip queen of the day Mary Cushman. After exchanging sideouts, sophomore Amy Dion stepped to the back line to serve for Maryland. Behind an effective floater, the Terps ran off five straight points in a stretch where three of those points came off Terrapin blocks. Freshman Ashlyn MacGregor, who leads Maryland with nearly 1.5 blocks per set shared in all three teaming with Emily Fraik for two and Cushman for the other. Mason went on a bit of a run scoring four of the next five to close within three at 10-7 but back to back kills by Ashleigh Crutcher put the Terps back up by five. A string of Terrapin attack errors let the Patriots back into the set and take small leads at 18-17 and again at 19-18. With the score tied at twenty-two, MacGregor took the set from freshman Julia Anderson and registered her only kill of the set on Anderson's team leading eighth assist. The Terps closed out the set 25-23 on a kill by Cushman.
The second set opened a bit more tightly than the first with Maryland and GMU trading the first six points. With the lead at 5-4, and in a pattern of play that typifies this Terrapin squad, they began to edge away pulling out to a 9-5 advantage in a string that included two all out sprawling digs first by libero Sarah Harper and then by Mary Cushman. After a sideout kill by Cushman put the Terps up 14-9, sophomore middle blocker Kelsey Hrebenach, in a stretch reminiscent of her play as a freshman, served the Terps to five consecutive points and a 19-19 lead. Maryland had a bit of a scare late in the set. With the Terrapins leading 22-15, preseason All ACC selection Ashleigh Crutcher slipped on a wet spot on the floor and appeared to turn her ankle. Coach Horsmon inserted defensive specialist Dani Bozzini who found herself unexpectedly on the front row. The 5' 6" sophomore missed her chance for a SportsCenter moment when she failed to block the ensuing Mason attack. The Terps systematically closed out the set by a 25-18 final.
The third set was more of the same with the teams essentially trading points early. Trailing 7-6, Maryland won a side out and with Cushman using her standing serve effectively, the Terps ran off four straight to open an eleven to seven lead. Playing confidently, Maryland methodically pulled away opening leads of six at 14-8, eight at 18-10, ten on an ace by Hrebanach at 21-11 before closing out the match by a dozen winning 25-13. Ashleigh Crutcher led the Terps with 12 kills adding ten kills to pick up her third double-double of the young season. Fellow junior Adreene Elliott also picked up double digit kills and led the Terps with a top not .444 kill percentage. Freshman setter Julia Anderson picked up a team high 22 assists ably abetted by sophomore Amy Dion who added ten.
The 3-0 sweep of George Mason in the afternoon marked the third sweep in their last four matches as a confident Maryland team took the court for the final match of the weekend against their stiffest competition - the Villanova Wildcats. The night match can be wrapped up in four words: defense and Mary Cushman. The senior from Syracuse picked up a team leading sixteen kills on an outstanding kill .452 percentage. She added thirteen digs to pick up her third double-double of the season. And lest any of you think women athletes aren't tough and competitive, Cushman is playing with a torn rotator cuff in her attack arm and I encourage you to come out and be as amazed as I am watching her power through balls that would probably have me writhing in agony.
Now, on to the match itself. As expected when two quality teams compete, the match opened tightly with ties at 1,2,3,4,5 and 6 before the visitors from Philadelphia edged out to a two point lead. The lead didn't last long as Maryland scored five of the next seven to put their noses in front at 11-10. Regaining the lead at 12-11 on a sideout, the Terps opened up some breathing room on an Amy Dion ace and a block by Fraik and MacGregor. However, the Wildcats scratched their way back to knot the score at sixteen apiece. After a sideout, a sequence that featured a running dig by Cushman and a block by Fraik and Crutcher, gave the Terps a bit of breathing room at 19-17. The teams then more or less traded points until Maryland strung together three straight behind Dion's serving closing the set 25-21 on a kill by Crutcher.
After back to back aces by Villanova put the visitors up 6-3 early in the second set, it looked as though Maryland's string of eight consecutive set wins might be in jeopardy. But the Terps crawled back into the set tying the score at seven on a block by Fraik and MacGregor. With the score tied at ten, the teams had a long rally that brought the crownd to its feet as players sprawled all over the court retrieving shot after shot. The Terrapins eventually won the point on a kill by Cushman. The rally not only boosted the energy of the spectators but it also seemed to pick up the Terps as they began to dominate the Wildcats working their way to an 18-13 margin and forcing a Villanova timeout. The timeout gave Coach Time Horsmon a chance to provide Cushman, who had served the previous two points with a bit of a rest. He inserted serving and defensive specialist Dani Bozzini and the Terps ran off three more consecutive points the last coming on another electrifying rally with the digs coming so fast and furious that it became almost impossible to track. Maryland cruised through the rest of the set closing it out by a comfortable 25-15 margin.
Villanova came out of the break determined not to allow Maryland to sweep the entire weekend. With the score even at five, the Wildcats ran off four of the next five points to take a 9-5 edge. Terps fans were treated to an unusual sight in the middle of the set when when middle blocker Catie Coyle found herself in the service rotation on the back line. Coyle, who rarely serves, acquitted herself well holding one point before some solid defensive play by Villanova won a sideout. In general, the Terps couldn't cut into Villanova's lead and trailed 17-13 before a sideout kill by Ashleigh Crutcher. Maryland closed within one behind Sarah Harper's serve and a block by Crutcher and a kill from Fraik but the Wildcats bounced back with a mini run of their own and opening the lead back to three at 20-17. A sideout block by Coyle and Elliott pulled the Terps within two at 22-20 and Horsmon decided it was Bozzini time. Bozzini served and Crutcher got a kill on a set from Anderson. Bozzini served and MacGregor and Elliott got a block. Bozzini served and Anderson again set up Crutcher for another kill. And the Terps led 23-22. Villanova won a sideout to tie the score at 23 but back to back kills off the right arm of tournament MVP Mary Cushman closed out the match and earned Maryland their third 3-0 sweep of the weekend. The Terps have now won 18 of the last 19 sets they've played. Ashleigh Crutcher who also recorded a double-double in the match and Adreene Elliott joined Cushman on the All-Tournament team.
The Terps travel to Ann Arbor this coming weekend where they will get a taste of life in the B1G (which has 9 teams ranked in the top 25) as they take on the seventh ranked Michigan Wolverines in a tourney that includes 29th ranked Ohio as well as Marshall. They will return home to open their ACC slate on Friday September 27 against Georgia Tech.