Despite taking the lead twice in the first half, it took a
Teresa Benvenuti overtime penalty stroke to send the No. 2
Princeton field hockey team to the national championship game. The Tigers
(20-1) handed No. 5 Maryland a 3-2 loss in the NCAA semifinals and will face
top-seeded North Carolina in the finals. UNC advanced to the championship game
behind a 6-1 victory over No. 5 Syracuse.
The Tigers took control immediately, but were unable to
preserve their advantage before halftime. On a long drive down the field,
Kathleen Sharkey picked up the ball on the left side outside the circle. The
nation's leading scorer then masterfully maneuvered around several Maryland
defenders into the circle and ripped a forehand from straight on to put
Princeton up 1-0 at 3:17.
Six minutes later Maryland was awarded two consecutive
penalty corner opportunities, capitalizing on its second set piece play. After
the initial shot was deflected off goalie Christina Maida's pads, the
Terrapins' Jill Witmer tapped in the tying goal at 9:09.
With 20:55 to play, the Terps' Janessa Pope sprinted past
the Tiger backline and set up for a one-on-one shot with Maida. Pope's drive
would be abruptly stopped as Maida dived out of the cage to kick the ball out
of the circle.
An aggressive Sharkey continued to look for scoring chances
to break up the tie. With 12 minutes to play in the first, she employed another
artful drive circling past Terp defenders. With a quick backstroke, she sent in
a shot from the right side, but UM's goalie Natalie Hunter was able to kick it
out of the circle.
Down a player due to a card, a persistent Princeton side drove
the ball into the Maryland circle and Sharkey was there again to finish on
another goal. Katie Reinprecht picked up the loose ball in traffic and connected
with Sharkey on the right side of the cage. The striker's first shot would be
deflected off Hunter's pads, but she followed through on the bouncing ball to
lift Princeton to a 2-1 advantage at 25:47.
With less than six to play in the first half, Princeton was
awarded two straight penalty corners, but was unable to finish on either
chance. On the second corner, Maryland sailed the ball into the Princeton half
of the field. With numbers not on their side, Tiger defender Kelsey Bryne
sprinted to the charging Terp striker, stole the ball and fed it back into UM's
half of the field preventing them from taking Maida on one-on-one.
Maida finished the game with three saves, making several
gutsy stops throughout the 70-minute battle.
Down 2-1 at 57:20, a Maryland penalty corner was deflected
off a Tiger defender and the Terrapins were awarded a penalty stroke. UM's Ali
McEvoy chipped in the stroke above Maida's head to even the score 2-2.
As time expired, the Tigers earned a pair penalty corners. Princeton
was unable to find a clear line to the cage, sending the game into overtime.
In its first overtime game since Sept. 6, a 3-2 win over
then-No. 8 Penn State, Princeton controlled possession from the get-go.
Michelle Cesan drove the ball into the circle on the right side, but was fouled
in the circle and earned a penalty stroke.
Benvenuti then went up to take the stroke, the first of her
career, and slammed in the ball past a lunging Hunter to the right side at the
Princeton held advantages in shots (9-8), shots on goal
(8-5) and penalty corners (6-4). Maryland held a 5-3 differential in saves.