It took two overtimes, a spectacular save from netminder Ashley Hohnstine, and a game-winning goal by Rachel Hiskins to get them there, but the Maryland Terrapins will play for their third NCAA field hockey championship after a tense, 2-1 semifinal win over third-ranked Iowa today at Northeastern University's Parsons Field.
Maryland, which is 23-1 and ranked No. 1 in the nation, will go for its first national title since 1993 on Sunday against unseeded Michigan, which advanced by upsetting second-seeded Connecticut, 4-3, on a goal by freshman Molly Powers with 1 minute 56 seconds to play in regulation. The outcome ended previously undefeated Connecticut's 23-game winning streak, and put the Wolverines (20-6) in the final for the first time.
Overtime wins have been all but automatic for the Terrapins, who had taken their seven previous prolonged encounters.
Hiskins made it 8 for 8 when she scored at 1:31 of the second extra period. The goal, her 18th of the season, came as Hiskins polished off a penalty corner play she began herself by sweeping out to teammate Autumn Welsh, who stood ready to trap the ball at the edge of the penalty circle. Welsh moved the ball to Caroline Walter, Maryland's leading goal scorer, who faked a shot but instead pushed the ball back to Hiskins as she cut toward the left post. Hiskins had the entire side of the net open and she banged her shot just beyond the reach of Hawkeyes goalie Kelly Druley.
It was the Terrapins' 13th penalty corner of the contest, and was just one of several variations that they like to run on that play. They ran this one like clockwork.
"We know pretty much what we want to do," said Hiskins, a senior from Victoria, Australia. "We look at what the defense looks like, and we take it from there. Once the ball got back to my stick, all I had to do was sweep it in."
Maryland, which won the territorial contest throughout the game, took a 1-0 lead with 7:37 remaining in the first half, when Carissa Messimer took a lead pass from Keli Smith and bounced a 15-footer past Druley.
Five minutes later, Lesley Irvine replied for Iowa (19-3) by finishing the second of two breakaway chances she had by beating Hohnstine from 20 feet out.
Moments earlier, Irvine had bolted in alone, only to have Hohnstine steer her to the side before poking the ball away.
Hohnstine, a sophomore from Oak Hill, Va., bailed the Terps out in the first minute of overtime with a lunging stop on Iowa's Tiffany Fodera, who was completely open near the left post and in control of a cross from Alycyn Freet. However, just as Fodera hit the would-be game-winner, Hohnstine lurched to her right and took the shot in her chest.
"I saw her [Fodera] heading for the corner," said Hohnstine, "But I just went with my instincts. After I looked behind me and saw where [the ball] wasn't, I figured that I had made the stop."