With just under seven minutes remaining in the first half, Virginia sophomore Madison Orsi inserted a penalty corner pass to junior Noa Boterman. In the span of just four seconds, Boterman fired a pass back to a cutting Orsi, who steadied the ball before redirecting it around Maryland keeper Alyssa Klebasko.
The second quarter goal served as the culmination of a dominating first half that No. 4 Maryland couldn’t recover from, as the Terps fell 4-0 to No. 5 Virginia in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament.
In the entirety of Friday’s match against Old Dominion, Maryland received a total of three penalty corners. The Terps tied that total just two minutes into today’s match, as the first quarter opened with three consecutive corner opportunities for the host team. However, the Terps couldn’t convert on any – the first two, shot by Sammy Popper, blocked at the net; a third look from Josie Hollamon flew just wide.
“We had four shots in the first quarter, and seemingly were in a good situation,” said head coach Missy Meharg. “[But] I thought Virginia really stepped up, having full numbers around the ball.”
The next seven minutes served as a fast-paced feel out period, as both teams matched possessions with rapid ball movement offensively and constant on-ball defensive pressure.
Then, in the ninth minute of play, the Cavaliers pulled ahead. On a wild penalty corner sequence, sophomore Daniela Mendez-Trendler inserted a pass to midfielder Lauren Kenah. After steadying the ball, Kenah powered a straight shot in the direction of the goal – but Terps’ keeper Alyssa Klebasko shifted over to deflect the shot. In a flash, Mendez-Trendler accelerated to the left endline, collecting the rebound before flicking in a second-chance goal to put Virginia on the board early.
“[Virginia’s] attack penalty corners are lethal,” Meharg emphasized. “They’re very quick to run, get numbers around…and move well athletically.”
This trend continued throughout the second quarter of play, courtesy of Orsi’s 23rd minute goal – the sophomore’s first of the season. Overall, Virginia held a 4-0 shot advantage over the Terps in the quarter, as Maryland wouldn’t attempt a single shot until the final period. As the buzzer sounded to end the half, the Terps found themselves down two goals for just the second time this season.
Maryland’s defense stepped up to begin the third quarter. Even with Virginia maintaining a majority of early period possessions, the Terps managed to silence the Cavaliers to zero shots on goal in the opening six minutes – thanks to swarming pressure from captains Rayne Wright and Maura Verleg.
But it wouldn’t hold for long, as Virginia extended its lead once more in the 36th minute of play. After intercepting a pass and picking up a steal just outside the shooting circle, Cavaliers’ freshman Minnie Pollock accelerated around her defender, then lined a diving backhand shot that zoomed past the outstretched fingertips of Klebasko and cashed into the back of the net.
“The [Cavaliers] intercepted on every single play,” said Meharg. “They play a very good combination of man-to-man and zone [defense].”
The Cavaliers’ offensive masterclass continued in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter. A shot by Pollock fell short after a save by Klebasko, but yet again, Virginia’s Adele Iacobucci swooped in to secure the rebound. In one swift motion, Iacobucci dribbled around the circle, creating space before powering in a shot that hit nothing but net to effectively ice the match.
Soon after, Klebasko recorded her seventh save of the day off a blocked shot from Cavaliers’ junior Jans Croon. However, it would be too little too late, as the four-goal deficit was too much to overcome in the final minutes – marking the first time that Maryland has fallen in the NCAA Tournament’s second round in four years.
The Terps finish the season with a 17-6 overall record, and now hold a 46-23-2 all-time series record against the Cavaliers. With the loss, Maryland is eliminated from the NCAA Tournament, and its season officially comes to a close.
“It’s really, really easy to want to find answers,” stressed Meharg. “We’re a team. No matter what the answer is, we’re going to take it together. We’ve had some magnificent results, and this one hurts. But I’m going to remember this team way more for the great wins that we [did] have…This [team] is one heartbeat.”