UNC falls to Maryland in OT at NCAA field hockey final

CORRESPONDENTNovember 20, 2011 

— Jill Witmer scored on a breakaway goal in overtime to give Maryland a 3-2 victory over North Carolina in the NCAA Division I field hockey championship at Trager Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Top-seeded North Carolina (23-2) had dominated and led 2-0 until Maryland’s Katie Gerzabek scored for the Terrapins with 3:46 remaining. Maryland had registered its first shot on goal until about a minute earlier after taking goalkeeper Melissa Vassalotti out of the game to provide more offense.

Maryland (19-4) didn’t get another scoring chance until it was awarded a penalty corner with just over 20 seconds left. The Terrapins waited until time ran out, then Jemma Buckley knocked in the goal to force overtime.

“I had the feeling we were going to score,” Buckley said. “We never gave up. Everybody played like it was our last game.”

It was the third straight year the teams met in the final and finished with a 3-2 score. Maryland won last year’s title in double overtime.

“I was proud of the way we played,” UNC coach Karen Shelton said. “We put ourselves in the position to win.

“Maryland started to take desperate measures, and it worked for them.”

Shelton said that her biggest regret was not letting senior midfielder Katelyn Falgowski take the ball and run out the clock in the final minute with a 2-1 lead.

“I feel like we could have let Falgo go with the ball,” she said. “She could hold it for one minute.

“It stinks to lose. I feel like we had a lot of talent and were capable of winning a national championship.”

One of the heroes for Maryland was Vassalotti, the senior goalkeeper who tied her career high with eight saves. UNC outshot Maryland, 10-4, with all of Maryland’s shots coming in the final five minutes of regulation and overtime.

It was Witmer who ended the game, though. She had just re-entered after a rest, received the ball near midfield and took off.

What was going through her head?

“Nothing,” she said. “I just wanted to go to the goal and get around the competition.”

No team had come back from two goals down in the championship game since 1982.

It was the seventh national title for Maryland coach Missy Meharg and Maryland’s eighth title overall.

“I felt that coming back against that backfield would take a miracle,” Meharg said, “and we got a couple of small ones.”

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