Terps win third field hockey title

Tip-in ends first half, proves difference in 2-1 victory vs. Michigan

November 22, 1999|By Steve Craig | Steve Craig,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

BROOKLINE, Mass. -- In sports, every second counts. The University of Maryland field hockey team proved that yesterday, winning its third NCAA championship, thanks in large part to a goal as time expired in the first half.

Freshman Carissa Messimer tipped in a long free hit by Dina Rizzo to give Maryland a two-goal lead. It was the margin of victory in a 2-1 win over Michigan (20-7) before 3,350, the largest field hockey crowd ever at Northeastern University's Parsons Field.

"It feels great. It feels comfortable," said Maryland's Missy Meharg, who became the fourth coach to win more than one title. "We said openly to ourselves and our friends and family that we wanted to win the national title."

There were anxious moments along the way: a 3-2 overtime win in the quarterfinals to bounce defending champion Old Dominion and a double-overtime, 2-1 win in the semifinals against Iowa. Michigan, too, did not go quietly.

The Wolverines' Jessica Rose beat goalie Ashley Hohnstine to a loose ball about 10 feet in front of the cage with a dive and swiped it into the left corner of the net 1: 04 into the second half to make it a one-goal game.

"Our coach told us at halftime that whoever scored the next goal would have the momentum and to really focus on the first five minutes," Rose said.

But Michigan had only two more shots on goal. Maryland held commanding advantages in shots (13-5) and penalty corners (8-3).

"A tremendous amount of credit goes to Lindsay [Gorewitz] and the rest of our defense for their tremendous organization," Meharg said. Gorewitz, a junior from Rockville, repeatedly broke up Michigan's straight-ahead attacks.

"I'm just really proud of the way we played today," Gorewitz said.

For the Terrapins (24-1), winners of 22 straight, the victory was the culmination of an 18-month drive.

"We really started two springs ago in this quest," Meharg said. "Last year, we put ourselves in a position to win the ACC tournament and then learned some valuable lessons about ourselves in the second round of the NCAA tournament. We learned some lessons about courage."

Maryland lost that game, 5-1, at home to Virginia. The Terps have lost just once since, melding players with different styles and nationalities into a team that plays a precise passing game and is always looking to attack.

"We came great together in the preseason," said sophomore Caroline Walter, from Germany. "We were great in the preseason, and we grew from game to game. It all fits. Having a dribbler, a passer and someone who does the dirty work in the back. It fits and makes us better."

Nine Maryland players have competed on the international level, including Walter (German Under-21) and junior midfielder Keli Smith (U.S. U-20), who scored the first goal with 10: 06 remaining in the first half. Smith outfought a Michigan defender for the ball deep in the scoring circle, then dragged it across her body from left to right, placing a hard shot under the diving charge of Michigan goalie Kati Oakes.

Walter helped create the second goal. She was a step away from a breakaway when she was pushed off the ball by Michigan's Ashley Reichenbach, bringing a stoppage of play with 10 seconds and Rizzo up for the free hit.

"I knew there was only 10 seconds left. The first time, I hit it off one of their players, and then I just heard a lot of noise and knew I'd better hurry," said Rizzo, who had about 50 friends and relatives from her hometown of Walpole cheering her on. "Pretty much, I was just trying to hit it off one of their players to get a penalty corner."

Messimer had the same thought while Michigan let up for a costly split second.

"I just happened to be ready when everyone else on my team was ready," she said.

Maryland has made 10 NCAA appearances and three trips to the final in Meharg's 12-year tenure. The Terps will lose only two seniors, backup goalie Zoe Ehrlich and seldom-used forward Emily Ward.

Goals: Mi--Rose; Ma--Messimer, Smith. Assists: Mi--Veith; Ma--Rizzo. Saves: Mi--Oakes 7; Ma--Hohnstine. Half: Ma, 2-0.

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