VILLANOVA, Pa. -- On paper, Old Dominion figured to be the prohibitive favorite when the defending national champion met Maryland to open field hockey's NCAA Division I final four yesterday.
On paper, the 24-0 Monarchs, besides having beaten the Terps (16-4-1) once, 3-2, this season, had been squashing nearly all comers by unsightly margins. On the season, ODU had outscored its opponents, 140-9.
Maryland, which battled gamely all day, still came up short.
"I thought we had plenty of scoring chances and took a lot of the attack from them," said Maryland co-coach Missy Meharg after the Terps saw their championship dreams vanish in a 3-1 decision. "We just didn't finish them off.
"The last time we didn't create as many chances. But we use that game for confidence, since they went up 2-0 and we came back to tie. Today's game was very similar."
With a break here or there, Maryland might have been the on meeting North Carolina (1-0 winner over Penn State) for the crown today instead of facing the Nittany Lions in the consolation game. But after falling behind 2-1 at the half, each time the Terps threatened for the equalizer, Old Dominion held them off.
And when Carolyn Bruns completed a dazzling pinbal machine-type passing play with an open-net goal with 11 minutes, 34 seconds remaining, Maryland's fate was sealed.
"When I scored my goal, we realized we could play with thi team," said Maryland's Mandy Stevenson, who scored off a penalty corner at 3:52, moments after ODU's Jill Reeve had opened the scoring. "That goal really got us excited and gave us an extra push."
But they never figured out a way to beat ODU goalkeeper Kathy Fosina after that. Meanwhile, Old Dominion scored what proved to be the game-winner at 10:41 when Pam Neiss, diving for a loose ball in the crease, shot it past the prone Irene Horvat in net.
The Monarchs then relied on their defense and Fosina t preserve the lead, getting a break midway through the second half when Maryland drew Fosina away from the goal. But defender Laura Knorr swept away a potential goal, and Bruns applied the crusher soon after.
"Give them credit for that combination," Meharg said of th insurance goal. "You don't see many of those. That was perfectly executed."
It also effectively killed Maryland's hopes of knocking ODU of the throne it has held five times in the past 10 years. But Meharg feels good about the future. "This has been my best year at Maryland," said the four-year coach, who shared duties equally with Dawn Hill. "We worked hard and went pretty far.
"We only have two seniors on the team, so I look for us to b back."