No. 3-seed Maryland field hockey was in yet another thriller against Liberty, this time in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
The two programs played an overtime classic in last year’s Final Four, and this year was no different.
With the Terps’ season on the line in double overtime, graduate defender Riley Donnelly walked it off for Maryland with a game-winning goal, sending her team to the second round of the NCAA Tournament with a 2-1 victory.
“Riley, she’s so cool, she’s been poised all year with situations like this and penalties — drag flicking as well — so I’m just not surprised we were able to put it away,” Maryland head coach Missy Meharg said.
The Terps will continue their quest for a national championship at home Sunday against the winner of Princeton-Syracuse.
The first-round matchup started with strong defensive play by both teams.
Just five minutes into the contest, Maryland was awarded its first penalty corner. Sophomore forward Hope Rose just missed with a rocket off the post.
Despite no score after the first quarter, the Terps applied pressure early, putting up four shots and forcing Liberty junior goalie Azul Iritxity Irigoyen to make two difficult saves, keeping the Terps off the board.
With five minutes left in the quarter, Liberty was awarded its first penalty corner. The Maryland defense also held strong, forcing the shot by senior defender Jodie Conolly to go wide right.
Throughout the second quarter, Maryland continued to dominate time of possession by keeping the ball in the Liberty zone.
Halfway through the quarter, Maryland was awarded its third penalty corner of the game. Donnelly ripped a shot on goal that was saved by the outstretched pad of Iritxity Irigoyen.
Maryland’s defense played spectacularly in the first half, not allowing a single shot on goal by Liberty.
“I think Maryland played a really good game of field hockey and it just comes down to staying vigilant, staying consistent, never worrying about the score and letting the outcome take care of itself,” Meharg said.
Defense continued to reign supreme entering the half, as the Terps were unable to ignite their usually prolific offense and break into the scoring column despite many opportunities.
Iritxity Irigoyen single-handedly kept Liberty in the game in the third quarter, as Maryland continued to apply pressure out of the half but was unable to find the back of the net.
Five minutes into the half, Liberty was awarded its second penalty corner of the game. Despite minimal scoring opportunities, the Flames cashed in their first shot on goal of the game as Conolly’s shot zipped past the outstretched pads of Maryland senior goalie Christina Calandra.
The momentum immediately swung to the Flames and signs of defensive struggles began to show for the Terps.
But with two minutes left in the third, the Terps found the equalizer as senior forward Margot Lawn pounced on a rebound and whacked the ball to the back of the cage, knotting the score up at one.
Iritxity Irigoyen continued to be a brick wall, saving eight out of Maryland’s first nine shots on goal.
With four minutes left in regulation, Rose was awarded a penalty stroke. Iritxity Irigoyen kept the Flames in the game with her ninth save of the matchup, which forced overtime.
Two minutes into overtime, the Terps were awarded their sixth penalty corner. Iritxity Irigoyen did it yet again, saving graduate midfielder Leah Crouse’s shot for her 10th save of the matchup.
Despite five shots for Maryland in the first overtime period, Liberty’s defense would not break.
That changed three minutes into double overtime once Donnelly earned a penalty stroke for the Terps. The rest was history, as Donnelly ripped her shot past Iritxity Irigoyen to earn Maryland the 2-1 victory.
“Yeah, you know, in that moment, I’m like, okay, this is another day, another practice. How many strokes have I taken on this goal in my life? A million,” Donnelly said. “And so it’s just me and somebody in the goal and another day.”
A Final Four trip will be on the line Sunday afternoon.
Three things to know
1. Maryland advances to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Maryland will take on the victor of Friday afternoon’s game between Syracuse and Princeton. The second round will be played on Sunday, Nov 13 at 1 p.m. at “The Plex” with the winner advancing to the Final Four in Storrs, Connecticut.
2. Maryland’s inability to capitalize on scoring chances. The Terps had 14 shots on goal to Liberty’s one. Despite the lopsided scoring chances, the Terps were only able to put two goals on the board.
3. Despite the loss, Liberty goalie Azul Iritxity Irigoyen played a phenomenal game. Iritxity Irigoyen single-handedly kept her squad in the first-round matchup against the Terps. She went on to record 12 saves in a herculean effort.