Terps win 3rd NCAA title in 4 years

College Field Hockey

November 24, 2008|By Steve Bittenbender | Steve Bittenbender,Special to The Baltimore Sun

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Top-seeded Maryland claimed its third NCAA field hockey title in four years, dominating No. 2 Wake Forest, 4-2, yesterday.

Four players scored for the Terrapins (22-2), led by senior Susie Rowe and sophomore Katie O'Donnell, who had a goal and an assist each. The game was a marked contrast from the Terps' semifinal struggle Friday, when they needed double overtime to fend off Iowa.

O'Donnell broke a 1-1 tie in the 32nd minute, sprinting from midfield, getting Wake goalie Crystal Duffield to commit early and putting an easy shot into the cage. Rowe called her teammate's 50-yard run "amazing."

O'Donnell said the play started when she heard her sisters yell a code word from the stands.

"When they yelled 'purple,' I knew to turn and run," she said. "I put my wheels on."

After holding an 8-1 shot advantage in the first half, the Terps came out even more aggressively to start the second half. Seven minutes in, Rowe scored off O'Donnell's penalty corner, getting a feed from Alexis Pappas to make it 3-1.

The goal was Rowe's 28th of the season, tying the team record. Her 74 points this season broke a team record.

"For me, this is the one [championship] I wanted the most," Rowe said. "This is actually the last game. This is the most special national championship there ever is."

Maryland outshot the Demon Deacons 13-5 and had a 9-2 edge in penalty corners.

"They capitalized on some great opportunities, and we didn't," said Wake coach Jen Averill, whose team finished 21-4, with three losses to the Terps. "They had us back on our heels."

Just a year ago, Maryland - then defending back-to-back NCAA championships - found itself on the outside looking in when the school served as host for the field hockey final four. It made for a "painful" time, Maryland coach Missy Meharg said. In addition, with some Terps away to represent national teams and some taking shortcuts in their lives, 2008 did not get off to a great start, and the coach said the team was not close to being national title contenders.

But Meharg credited Joel Fish, a sports psychologist, for helping the team. In addition, the players opened up to one another by spending a lot of time talking. The camaraderie helped change the direction of the team, which spent six of the nine weeks in the top spot of the National Field Hockey Coaches Association poll and finished winning its past 12 games.

"I just couldn't be prouder of the team," Meharg said. "Our girls played very mature mentally. They didn't allow anything to unsettle them."

The championship continued the Atlantic Coast Conference's domination in the sport, as ACC teams have accounted for seven consecutive NCAA titles. North Carolina won last year, and Wake won three straight from 2002 to 2004. In addition to the championships, ACC teams have finished as runners-up five of the past seven years.

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