Maryland field hockey dug deep to earn its way into the Final Four with an upset victory over No. 2-seeded Duke in Durham on Sunday.
After going down 2-1 early in the second half, the Terps pressured their way in to scoring two goals in less than two minutes down the stretch to secure the victory over the Blue Devils.
Just 90 seconds after the ref blew the opening whistle, the Blue Devils maneuvered their way past every Terp in their way to give junior forward Rose Tynan an opportunity to fire off a spinning shot right past Maryland keeper Sarah Holliday to give Duke a quick 1-0 lead.
But the Terps pressed on as if the goal never happened. When the game restarted at midfield, every player, except the backline, ran forward to set up a quasi-counter attack situation to try and catch Duke off guard. While the initial push did not result in a score, it set the tone for the rest of the first half.
Maryland stuck with the game plan that gave Wake Forest so many problems a day earlier. Forwards like Linnea Gonzales chased Duke defenders until they made rushed passes or frantic dribbles out of bounds, while the midfielders and defenders stuck to heavy player-marking.
At a certain point, the Blue Devils switched to a similar strategy of a high pressure scheme. As the Terps began to realize they were getting bits of their own medicine, they made a quick temporary switch to the long-ball strategy that showed up in the early second half on Saturday. This time, however, it worked.
A deep pass down field from Bodil Keus started a three-on-two fast break towards Duke’s goal where Madison Maguire was able to dump off a pass to Kyler Greenwalt who fired off a shot right by Duke keeper Sammi Steele. The score was tied at one a piece.
As both teams began to strengthen their pressure against one another, play mostly remained in the midfield as Terps and Blue Devils did an excellent job intercepting almost every pass downfield. The 1-1 score made its way into halftime.
Duke started the second half with as much speed as they did in the first half. Unfortunately, Maryland began with the same defensive pressure. After a few successive pushed from the Blue Devils, Ashley Kristen broke through Maryland’s defense to give her side a 2-1 lead.
Momentum seemed to ride with Duke for a majority of the half. Whether it was patience on that team’s side, or frantic play on Maryland’s, the Blue Devils seemed like the more seasoned team in their ability to snuff out whatever the Terps threw at them for at least 20 minutes of game time.
In what was then a rare lapse of pressure, Duke allowed Maryland to march down the field and earn an all-important penalty corner, just its second of the game. The Terps took advantage of the set piece and Big Ten Freshman of the Year Bodil Keus lifted a shot over the Duke keeper to tie the score at two.
The offensive floodgates seemed to open back up for the Terps. Their speed and dribbling all seemed to instantly come back, much to the chagrin of the Blue Devils. Two minutes after the tying goal, Maryland kicked off a speedy counter attack that made its way to the stick of Linnea Gonzales who was also able to lift her shot over Steele to give the Terps a 3-2 lead with less than 10 minutes left.
The goal seemed to throw the Blue Devils off of their game, as even the team’s best efforts were easily stopped. The final whistle blew with a 3-2 victory for Maryland.
Michigan, who beat the Terps in double-overtime this season, awaits in the Final Four.
Three things to know
- Maryland is finally converting its chances. The high shot-low goal combination often plagued the Terps this season as they often did everything offensively, right up until it mattered. The team ended with six total shots for the day which show that their decision-making in the final third of the field is hitting an all-time high at the perfect time.
- The Terps made Sammi Steele look like Tim Howard. One of the improvements in decision making came in the form of noticing whenever Duke’s keeper was off her line. Both second-half goals for Maryland were lofted right over Steele’s head, where she could only watch as the ball floated gently over the goal line.
- The team knows their game plan inside and out. The ability quickly adapt to Duke turning up the pressure on Maryland’s players was a turning point not just in the first half, but for this game. When the strategy focuses on pressuring your opponents to the point where they are too panicked to make a decision, the psychological edge is important. The Terps broke that edge with their patient passing, and vision to find the right holes in the Blue Devils’ formation to tie the game early on.