By James Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 22, 2010; D04
The scene on Sunday was almost the reverse of last year. Instead of gathering at midfield with their sticks tossed to the ground and fighting tears after a crushing loss to North Carolina that came down to the final 12 seconds of the 2009 NCAA field hockey title game, it was Maryland who rallied and celebrated an exhausting 3-2 win in double overtime in Sunday's NCAA championship.
After giving up an early one-goal lead, top-ranked Maryland dominated the Tar Heels, coming back from a 2-1 deficit early in the second half, playing the role of aggressor and pushing the ball upfield. And after several good opportunities near the end of regulation and in both extra periods, it took a player other than Maryland's prolific scorer, senior Katie O'Donnell, to claim the school's first title since 2008.
With just less than three minutes left in the second overtime and North Carolina anxiously hoping to go to a penalty stroke-off, Maryland sophomore Megan Frazer dribbled past a defender and drilled a shot from the top of the circle for the game-winning goal in front of an announced crowd of 2,381 at the Field Hockey & Lacrosse Complex in College Park.
"Looking back, if [North Carolina] can win in such a little time, we still have plenty of time to turn it around," O'Donnell said. "I thank them almost for teaching us a lesson last year."
The championship, Maryland's seventh field hockey title, was the culmination of a storybook season for the Terrapins, who lost only once and handed second-ranked North Carolina all three of its losses.
Sunday's game was a matchup of the country's best field hockey schools in recent years. Since 2005, the schools have traded off NCAA titles, with Maryland winning four (2005, 2006, 2008 and 2010) and North Carolina claiming the 2007 and 2009 titles.
Early in the game, however, North Carolina (22-3) seemed to have the upper hand. Despite a goal in the fourth minute by Maryland freshman Hayley Turner, the Tar Heels pushed the ball up aggressively and outshot Maryland. Thirty seconds before halftime, North Carolina tied the score at 1-1. North Carolina would take the lead and the momentum in the 41st minute on a low shot by freshman Marta Malmberg.
But soon, Maryland (22-1) began attacking more, notching eight shots in the second half. Sophomore Harriet Tibble tied the score at 2-2 when she dribbled up from 18 yards out on a restart and fired a shot across her body and to the right of goalkeeper Jackie Kintzer.
"We just kept giving it what we had," Tibble said. "We kept going. They had the momentum some and we had the ball in their [territory] for a fair amount of time I thought at the beginning. We just kept playing our game and passing it around."
The Tar Heels used taller Meghan Dawson to try and control O'Donnell, the country's leading scorer, because defenders "can't necessarily stop her," North Carolina Karen Shelton said.
And though it worked and North Carolina kept O'Donnell from scoring, the Maryland forward still created opportunities by passing and drawing the defense's attention. So on the game-winning shot it was only fitting that O'Donnell set it up with a steal deep in North Carolina territory followed by a pass, with her back to the goal, to Frazer.
"They beat us with 11.9 seconds [left]," O'Donnell said. "I mean to this day, forever, I will always remember that time. But today we won with two minutes and ten seconds left in overtime on an amazing shot, on an amazing field in an amazing environment."