STORRS, Conn. — Maryland’s attack pushed at the goal cage for a final time with only moments left in their battle with Northwestern. Down 2-1, it was their last chance to even the score.
A whistle blew with 1.6 seconds left. The Terps had earned a penalty corner, their fifth of the game, for a chance to find a goal that would tie the score at two and send the national semifinal to overtime.
Emma DeBerdine inserted and Hope Rose collected the ball after a quick pass, one of Maryland’s go-to plays on corners that’s worked several times throughout the season.
But Rose’s potential game-tying strike was blocked and deflected. The ball sailed high above the net as the final buzzer sounded and Maryland’s chance at finding a second goal was never realized.
A Terps offense that tallied the most goals in the country this season was largely held in check during the NCAA semifinal by No. 2-seed Northwestern, ending their season on a 2-1 defeat and falling in the semifinal for the second consecutive year.
“I couldn’t be prouder of my team,” Meharg said. “It’s always a very competitive game … We had opportunities to finish, we got 10 shots and five corners and I’m sure we’ll reflect back on continuing to work really hard on finishing and the pressure of the environment of the Final Four.”
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The coach knew some tweaks were needed following her team’s collapse against Northwestern that eliminated Maryland in the second round of the Big Ten tournament. A slow start to the game put them in an early two-score hole that they were never able to climb out of.
But those changes didn’t result in a new outcome.
“All week we were fighting just like we have been all season to improve on anything that we can,” Rayne Wright said. “We played probably the greatest hockey that we have. Just gotta get the ball in the net.”
One adjustment Meharg sought to make was how the team came out in the first and second quarters. In Friday’s contest, the Terps improved how they started.
A tough defensive effort held the Wildcats in check in the first half. Four Northwestern shots didn’t translate to any goals as Christina Calandra successfully fended off both Wildcats shots in her direction with a pair of diving saves.
While Northwestern failed to find a first-half goal, so did the Terps.
The third and fourth quarters of the teams’ previous matchup didn’t stress Meharg out as much. She felt the second half of the Terps’ recent loss to the Wildcats was the best 30 minutes they played all season despite the final score.
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Friday was the inverse of that. Northwestern found a 2-0 advantage in the fourth quarter with a Bente Baekers score early in the frame and another with two minutes to play after Meharg removed Calandra to gain an offensive advantage.
“This team, they don’t get nervous,” Meharg said. “They’re just present and they want to compete. We talk about things like nerves and scared, no it’s excitement.”
However, an Emma Deberdine score 37 seconds after the Wildcats’ empty-netter less than a minute earlier cut Maryland’s deficit in half and gave it hope.
Those wishes reached their height with 1.6 seconds remaining when the Terps earned a penalty corner to keep their season alive.
“We were expecting a battle and that’s what we got today,” Northwestern coach Tracey Fuchs said.
But when Rose’s shot was defended, Northwestern’s bench rushed to join its defense on the field as Maryland again suffered defeat in the national semifinal.
“Obviously not the outcome that we wanted, but this team is so special. … We all fought so hard to the last minute,” Riley Donnelly said.