LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Maryland field hockey forward Bibi Donraadt had her back to goal and a pair of Princeton defenders closely guarding her near the edge of the circle with about two minutes left in the first overtime period of Friday’s NCAA tournament semifinal.
But with a clever move and a rocket shot into the top of the net, Donraadt showed why she’s the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year by splitting the double-team and sending the Terps to their second consecutive national championship game with a moment of individual brilliance that nullified her team’s overall struggles Friday. The score was also the latest first goal in NCAA final history.
Tigers defenders had dominated Donraadt and the rest of the offense throughout the first 77 minutes, but after a late Princeton goal was waved off and the game went to overtime, No. 2 Maryland came out victorious and earned a date with undefeated No. 1 North Carolina in Sunday’s national championship.
“We were all waiting for the goal and it took way too long, but I’m very happy that it was in the first overtime,” Donraadt said. “You just feel it when it’s the perfect one. I was 99 percent sure that it was going in.”
Maryland players have spent the whole season talking about avenging their loss to UConn in last year’s national championship all season, but for much of Friday’s final four, it was unclear whether they would get that chance.
Princeton set the tone by swatting away Maryland’s passes and earning a penalty corner. The Terps didn’t take a shot until the 15th minute and only earned one corner in regulation.
“Princeton is so athletic and … their first line of attack is to intercept the ball,” coach Missy Meharg said. “We struggled posting up, we struggled getting between the ball and their defender. I thought they were exceptional at it.”
With its offense sputtering, Maryland played strong defense through the first 35, stopping three Princeton penalty corner chances and only allowing the Tigers four shots.
The Terps took control on offense for the final two minutes entering halftime and earned a penalty corner but couldn’t find the game’s first goal.
When Maryland played Princeton earlier this season, it took a 1-0 lead but then dug itself into an early hole. The Tigers scored four consecutive goals before the Terps came back in the second half and won, 5-4, in double overtime.
In that game, Maryland fixed its first-half errors after intermission. But Friday, the Tigers continued to press, and it was only a strong performance from the Terps’ defense that kept them in the game.
“I’m overwhelmed by the fortitude of our defense,” Meharg said.
Goalkeeper Sarah Holliday had a slew of impressive saves on Princeton’s nine penalty corners. And when she didn’t stop the Tigers’ final corner with about a handful of minutes left in regulation, referees waved off the goal for being hit too high.
That gave Meharg’s squad new life, and it looked stronger to end regulation and in overtime, playing a more even game rather than constantly defending. The Terps earned a penalty corner in the extra period, but it wasn’t until Donraadt’s slick stick-work and lethal finish that they found a goal that gives them a chance at redemption.
“It’s really exciting to finally see our hard work paying off since last year when we lost to now,” forward Linnea Gonzales said. “And we have more work to do.”