No. 4 Maryland field hockey’s penalty corner defense looked shaky before Sunday’s Elite Eight game against Virginia. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers thrived there all season.
Using their penalty corner prowess, Virginia built a multi-goal first-half lead to eliminate the Terps in a lopsided 4-0 result.
It was Maryland’s earliest exit from the NCAA Tournament since the spring of 2021, when it didn’t make the field.
“We knew the penalty corners were going to be dangerous, and they were,” Maryland head coach Missy Meharg said.
Virginia junior goalkeeper Tyler Kennedy recorded her fourth shutout this season, but she didn’t need to make a single save. Maryland did not register a shot in the second or third quarters, with a majority of its six shot attempts coming in the match’s opening five minutes.
Virginia’s leading scorer, sophomore Daniela Mendez-Trendler, put the Cavaliers ahead six minutes in. On the final of three straight penalty corners, the all-conference selection camped beside Maryland freshman goalkeeper Alyssa Klebasko near the left post. Corralling a rebound, Mendez-Trendler beat Klebasko with a cross-goal shot to the bottom right corner.
The opening goal followed an offensive push from the Terps in which they applied identical pressure but failed to find similar success. Maryland drew three straight corner attempts, but two shots from Sammy Popper and a third from Josie Hollamon didn’t find the target. Popper’s second corner attempt — Maryland’s only shot on goal of the day — was blocked by Virginia’s Noa Botermon for a defensive save.
“The way we defended was the way we wanted to come out,” said Virginia interim head coach Ole Kuesgen. “... It was just the little details that we took care of today.”
Virginia extended its lead with less than five minutes to go in the half on another beautifully designed corner play. Sophomore Madison Orsi inserted before netting her first career goal. Like Mendez-Trendler, Orsi set herself up on the left post, ready to receive a pass after Botermon pump-faked and assisted a low-dribbling score.
Freshman Minnie Pollock added a third insurance goal for Virginia midway through the third quarter. After burning Maryland on corners in the first half, Pollock surprised Klebasko and the Terps’ back line by launching a goal from right of the goal. The score was Virginia’s first non-corner goal in three games.
Graduate Adele Iacobucci finalized the margin for Virginia in the final quarter with her fourth goal of the year.
Eliminated from the NCAA Tournament, Maryland finished its season with a 17-6 record. Virginia is now set to face ACC rival and reigning champion North Carolina in the Final Four on Friday.
“They got a ton of numbers around the ball very quickly,” Maryland head coach Missy Meharg said of Virginia’s defense. “They’re athletic, so they play a good combination of man-to-man and zone … they had a real beat to their pace.”
Three things to know
1. Not enough pressure. Kennedy shut out Maryland’s attack and was not called upon to make a save. Sunday’s match was the first time Maryland’s opposing goalkeeper went without a save since the spring of 2021.
2. Out before the Final Four. Maryland saw its earliest NCAA Tournament exit since the spring 2021 season, when it did not qualify for the event. Maryland would have advanced to its third straight Final Four for the first time in program history with a win.
3. Losing on corners. Maryland struggled to draw penalty corners against Virginia, a theme for the Terps in the late goings of the season. Opposing attacks drew more corners than Maryland in three straight matches.