Maryland field hockey (22-2) will face off against North Carolina (22-0) for the 2018 NCAA Tournament title on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET in Louisville, Kentucky. The game can be streamed at NCAA.com.
The Terrapins have been propelled to this point by three straight one-goal wins, including two consecutive overtime victories. Maryland held off Albany 2-1 in the opening round, then outlasted defending champion Connecticut 2-1 to advance to the Final Four, where it beat Princeton in sudden death, 1-0. Now, the Terrapins have a chance to claim their ninth national championship in program history.
The Tar Heels have been riding an undefeated season and have not slowed down in the NCAA Tournament. In their semifinal match against Wake Forest, North Carolina scored four goals in the first half and took the game 4-1 to advance.
There is also plenty of history between the former ACC rivals, as the Tar Heels lead the series 37-26, including a 3-0 victory when these teams last met in the 2016 quarterfinals.
The Tar Heels are a juggernaut on both sides of the ball.
North Carolina’s offense has been nothing short of spectacular this season. They average scoring over four goals a game, and have 80 assists on their 101 goals. Seven players have scored six goals or more, including the top three, who each have at least 16 scores each. Over 62 percent of their shots also end up on target, so the Terrapins will need to be ready to make saves.
The Carolina offense is led by freshman forward/midfield Erin Matson. She leads the team in with 19 goals, 19 assists, 70 shots, 44 shots on goal and four game-winning goals. Maryland needs to do everything in their power to keep her off the scoresheet if it wants a chance to win this game.
On the other side, the Tar Heels average giving up under one goal per game this season. Their defense has also held opponents to just an average of 6.4 shots per game (compared to their offense which averages 20 per game). The offense is powerful enough to carry this team, but the defense has been there to close out any games that have been close.
Amanda Hendry, a sophomore goalkeeper from Connecticut, has started every game for the Tar Heels this season. In those 22 matches, she’s allowed just 13 goals and has a save percentage of .768. Teams have struggled to get past Hendry all season, and only two have been able to score multiple goals.
The Terrapins have a chance, but it won’t be easy.
Maryland certainly can compete in this game. Despite the close games as of late, the emergence of freshmen like Bibi Donraadt and Riley Donnelly along with the leadership of Linnea Gonzales is a perfect storm for something special. The Maryland defense, led by Bodil Keus and Nike Lorenz, has been stellar throughout this postseason and will play a key role on Sunday. Senior goalkeeper Sarah Holliday has answered the call when tested.
The Terrapins have won against tough opponents and in difficult situations, but this season all comes down to one game. Everything from the game plan to on-field play and the focus of this team will be tested against the Tar Heels. Maryland will have to put together its best performance of the season on Sunday if it want to capture the national championship.