Brains, brawn of Tagliente lift UM

With help from top scorer, Terps two victories away from third national title

Field Hockey

November 19, 1999|By Rupen Fofaria | Rupen Fofaria,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Carla Tagliente is smart and tough. She isn't scared of much, because if she can't think her way out of a situation, she'll muscle her way to the top.

By the end of the weekend, the Maryland field hockey team (22-1) wants to end up tops in the nation. The Terps compete in the NCAA tournament final four this weekend in Boston, facing Iowa (19-2) at 12: 30 p.m. today. Connecticut (23-0) meets Michigan (19-6) at 3: 30 p.m.

"We've come this far, but it isn't over," Tagliente said. "We don't pay much attention to rankings and statistics. But if we win it all, if we're national champions, then that speaks for itself."

Tagliente was valedictorian of her high school, maintaining a 4.0 GPA at Marathon High in New York. She is a smart student who brings her mental capacity to the field. She also played football for three years in middle school, and brings that physical tenacity as well.

Those attributes, coach Missy Meharg said, are what prepare her for handling both the mental pressure of being No. 1 and the physical pressure aggressive teams display against the Terps.

"Carla is our playmaker on the field," Meharg said. "She is our field general, I can't say enough about her maturity and levelheadedness. That's what makes her such a complete player."

When Maryland opened the season No. 1 in the nation, the team felt the abuse immediately. It showed in Tagliente's numbers.

"Teams certainly tend to have their best games against us," she said. "But it's more than that. They play more aggressive against us and we feel it."

Although, Tagliente played her trademark brand of hockey the first few weeks, she found herself without the statistics that had marked her previous seasons. Her freshman year she scored 19 goals and 43 points en route to earning Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year honors. As just a sophomore, she stepped into a leadership role and had 17 goals and 41 points.

This season she went two weeks without scoring a single goal.

Finally, her patience and durability served her well, as she finally found the back of the net with three goals against Towson six games into the season.

She hasn't looked back since. Tagliente has scored 18 goals and 55 points to place her second all time in goals and fourth all time in points (six shy of third) in Maryland history. Along the way, she has led the Terps through a 20-game winning streak -- the longest in Terps' history. In 1993, the Terps went on a 15-game run on the way to capturing the national title.

Maryland has a rich history of field hockey with two national championships and three conference honors. But the national title trophy has been absent from College Park six years now, and Tagliente is determined to bring it back.

"I'm excited not only to be here," she said, "but to experience this and have a chance to play for the national title with my teammates. We just want to come out here and do our best and play good Maryland hockey."

Field hockey facts

What: NCAA field hockey final four

Where: Northeastern University, Boston

Semifinals: Today -- Maryland (22-1) vs. Iowa (19-2), 12: 30 p.m.; Connecticut (23-0) vs. Michigan (19-6), 3: 30 p.m.

Final: Sunday, 1: 30 p.m.

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