No. 4 Princeton field hockey (15–5) concluded its season Friday at the NCAA Final Four in Louisville, Kentucky. The No. 2 Maryland Terrapins (22–2) earned a spot in the National Championship game with their 1–0 overtime victory against the Tigers.
The match-up with Maryland was a battle the whole way through. Fans might have predicted this, given that the two teams’ previous meeting in September required two overtime periods before the Terrapins could pull away, 5–4.
Princeton’s first chance to score came only five minutes into the game Friday as they earned their first corner. Sophomore midfielder Julianna Tornetta’s shot was blocked by the Maryland goalie, as was sophomore midfielder MaryKate Neff’s follow-up. Late in the first half, Tornetta tapped in another corner to classmate Clara Roth, the team’s most prolific scorer this season, but the play just missed the mark. Roth then came up with a defensive stop, blocking a Maryland corner just before halftime.
The game reached its most exciting point with only seven minutes gone in the second half. Tornetta sent a long pass to Roth, streaking the ball down the field. Roth’s shot was again saved, but on the rebound, the referee awarded Princeton a penalty stroke. Maryland’s defense and coaching staff were quick to question the call, and after review, the play was changed to a corner. Princeton was not ultimately able to capitalize on the opportunity offered.
In the closing minutes, Maryland’s offense tried to pour it on, but two shots sailed wide and high, away from the Princeton goal. The Tigers’ defensive unit, which was anchored by two winners of the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year Award, senior Elise Wong and junior Maddie Bacskai, proved vital in the final stand, pushing the ball upfield for two more corners as the clock ticked down.
With 2:14 to play, the Tigers thought they had finally put themselves on top. They converted a corner for the first time all match, but the final tip in by Neff was high and deemed too dangerous. The referee called back the point; the game would head into overtime.
Princeton continued its stellar play and possessed the ball in extra time. But with two minutes left to play, Maryland’s Bibi Donraadt slid between two Princeton defenders and sent a powerful shot, that hit off the stick of Tiger goalkeeper junior Grace Baylis, into the back of the cage.
Despite the 1–0 final score, the Tigers finished with a 9–2 advantage on corners and a 7–6 lead in shots on goal. This meeting with Maryland was only the second-ever national semifinal or final to go scoreless through regulation, and the first since 1989. Wong and senior Sophia Tornetta were each named to the Victory Sports Tours/National Field Hockey Coaches Association Division I Senior Game.
Wong credited the team’s success this season to its “healthy, competitive team culture” and the ability to go through the schedule, especially in the postseason, “game by game.”
In the national title game on Sunday, Maryland faced the No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels (22–0). The Terrapins were dominated by the Tar Heels, whose crisp passing and brilliant stick work were on display all game long. North Carolina came away with a 2–0 victory, completing an undefeated season and winning the program’s first National Championship trophy since 2009.