Terps Complete Drive for Fifth Straight ACC Title
|Maryland won its fifth straight
ACC championship by beating North Carolina in the title game for
the fourth year in a row Sunday at a rainy Fetzer Field in Chapel
© Peyton Williams
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — As the game finished and the crowd erupted in cheers, Maryland began what's become an annual celebration of the ACC title and rushed the field.
For the fourth year in a row, Maryland knocked off North Carolina in the ACC tournament championship, this time by a 12-8 decision on a rainy afternoon in Chapel Hill. The win marked Maryland's fifth consecutive ACC title.
The Terrapins took control from the very beginning of this game.
With just three minutes off the clock, Maryland's Katie Schwarzmann found Brooke Griffin near the cage and Griffin that rocketed a shot past UNC freshman goaltender Megan Ward.
North Carolina scored three minutes later, and then two teams continued to trade goals until about nine minutes left in the first half.
Maryland junior midfielder Beth Glaros evened the game at three with 8:49 left until halftime, and sparked a 6-0 Maryland run that stretched through the first six minutes of the second half.
But while the Terrapin attack was making highlight-reel worthy shots, it was Maryland's defense that pushed the tea Terps past the Tar Heels.
In the first half both UNC and Maryland attempted 14 shots, but all-tournament goalie Kasey Howard saved seven of the Tar Heels' attempts. In the second half, Maryland again recorded 14 shots, but North Carolina only managed nine.
The problem: the Tar Heels just couldn't clear the ball.
When asked what the problem was offensively for UNC, a red-eyed and unusually quiet Kara Cannizzaro interrupted her coach and said that her team simply couldn't get into its offense.
"We were losing balls and Maryland gains their momentum, and they break games open in unscrambled situations," North Carolina coach Jenny Levy said. "And I believe in the first 10 minutes of that second half we had turnovers, so it wasn't a lack offense on our part, it was a lack of having the ball."
Behind a strong defensive corps led by Howard in the cage, the Terrapins disrupted any flow to UNC's offense. Though Maryland allowed four goals from Abbey Friend — three coming in the final 13 minutes of the game — the Terrapins shut down the Tar Heels' usually aggressive attack.
"The defenders did a great job of communicating and just having each other's backs — getting their sticks there," Howard said.
Maryland held UNC's leading scorer Cannizzaro to only one goal. The senior midfielder averages almost three goals per game, but couldn't get past Maryland double teams.
"I think when you play players like Cannizzaro, and Friend had a lot of goals, and Coppa — those guys are good dodgers," Maryland coach Cathy Reese said. "They've got good challengers there that we have a lot of respect for so we needed to make sure that we limited their opportunities, hopefully forcing them into not such a great shot as they'd be able to have if we didn't get our help there."
Maryland not only capitalized on UNC's inability to get into its offense, but the Terrapins were also scrappy on the ground, gobbling up a season-high 29 ground balls to UNC's 19.
"We did great with ground balls," Reese said. "We were getting loose balls very quickly today."
The defense's ability to pick up the ground balls and halt UNC's clear attempts got Maryland's offense going and ultimately led the team to its fifth consecutive ACC title.
"Our defense started our offense today and we just had fast breaks," Griffin said. "They were face guarding Alex [Aust] and I just think it opened everything up."
The Terrapins shut down the heart of North Carolina's offense, and the Tar Heels tried to return the favor.
UNC held ACC championship MVP Schwarzmann scoreless by using a double team that Schwarzmann has faced many times this season. But instead of being rendered useless, the senior midfielder passed the ball off to her open teammates and earned four assists.
Though the stakes were the same as years past and the teams were similar from past ACC foes, both coaches were quick to point out that the two teams' past history in the ACC finals had nothing to do with this year's game.
"It's a great battle," Levy said. "It's two really good programs that are perennially in the top four. There is familiarity but you still have to come and show up and play the game for 60 minutes, but it has no memory."
"There's a lot of heart, a lot of hustle, a lot of pride in our program for all of these student-athletes," Reese said. "For us, it doesn't matter who you play but just a matter of doing what we've made our focus all season, and putting the pieces of the puzzle together."