For the second time in three years, No. 4 field hockey has earned a spot in the Final Four. They face the No. 2 Maryland Terrapins today at 3:45 p.m. at Trager Stadium in Louisville, Ky.
The Tigers are 15–4 for the year. One of their toughest tests this season came on Sept. 18, a date with — you guessed it — Maryland. The Terrapins were first to score in that match-up, but Princeton sustained a strong offensive attack to close out the first half with a 3–1 lead. The second period of play would be a complete role reversal. The score was leveled 4–4 at the end of regulation.
Maryland did need some last-second heroics to force overtime, however. It pulled its goalie with 4:05 left to play in the second half. The strategy didn’t seem to be working until the clock ticked down to 15 seconds. The Terrapins’ forward Linnea Gonzales hit the ball from outside the circle, but it was knocked around in front of the goal until striker Bibi Donraadt pushed it past Tiger goalie Grace Baylis, a junior.
The initial overtime period was scoreless for both sides, but around a minute into the second phase of extra play, defender Nike Lorenz dribbled to the left and slapped the ball into the cage, making it a 5–4 victory for Maryland.
Last weekend, the Terrapins (21–2) defeated the University of Connecticut, the reigning national champions, 2–1 to advance to the Final Four. They are the Big Ten Tournament Champions as well as last year’s national runners-up.
Princeton recently defeated Harvard in an instant classic to reach this stage. The Tigers are 3–5 all-time in national semifinals and became the first Ivy League team to win the NCAA Field Hockey Championship in 2012.
Last week, the Ivy League announced its annual award winners, and Princeton had eight players named to the All-Ivy teams. Sophomore striker Clara Roth was honored as the league’s Co-Offensive Player of the Year, while senior fullback Elise Wong took home Defensive Player of the Year honors. Roth finished second in the conference in points (34), tied for second in goals (13), and tied for third in assists (eight).
Wong anchored one of the best defensive units in the country. Princeton has allowed only 1.19 goals per game, good for eighth in the country. Along with Roth and Wong, junior fullback Maddie Bacskai and sisters Sophia and Julianna Tornetta, a senior striker and sophomore midfielder, also earned First Team All-Ivy selections.
Today’s other national semifinal, scheduled for 1 p.m., features No. 1 North Carolina and No. 12 Wake Forest. Princeton’s first two games of the 2018 season were played against the Tar Heels and Demon Deacons with a 1–0 loss and a 4–1 win, respectively.
North Carolina is the only remaining undefeated team in the NCAA, its record unblemished at 21–0. It was the clear favorites in the tournament and have been dominating opponents since late August. It won twice against Duke, who were seeded fourth in the tournament, and won the Atlantic Coast Collegiate Tournament crown. It also beat its intra-league foe Wake Forest twice already this fall.
The national title game is set for 1 p.m. on Sunday. It would be Princeton’s first trip back to the main stage since winning it all six years ago.