The Virginia field hockey team entered Sunday’s NCAA Tournament quarterfinal against Maryland with something to prove.
The Cavaliers lost to the Terrapins 3-2 in a shootout on Sept. 13, and they hadn’t reached the NCAA semifinals since 2010. The Cavaliers found revenge Sunday and clinched their first Final Four appearance in nearly a decade when Annie McDonough scored the game-winning goal halfway through the first overtime period to beat the Terrapins, 1-0.
McDonough took a pass from Rachel Robinson on a penalty corner and deflected it into the goal for the win. The goal sent the Cavaliers’ bench into a joyous outburst as they rushed the field in celebration.
“It’s like the best day of my life,” McDonough said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything else. It was amazing.”
The goal came after McDonough appeared to score a goal 41 seconds into the fourth quarter. Virginia celebrated the goal, but the officials went to video replay and overturned the goal. That kept the score at 0-0 in a highly competitive second half.
Both teams went back and forth throughout the second half, but the first half was controlled by Maryland.
The first half was a defensive battle, and Maryland earned the better scoring chances, especially in the first quarter. The Terrapins tallied four first-half penalty corners, but the Cavaliers turned them aside.
Three of the corners didn’t result in much, but one corner forced Virginia goalkeeper Lauren Hausheer to make a diving save. The ball came in fast, and Hausheer had to quickly dive to her right to knock the ball away.
Throughout most of the first half, UVa found itself on its heels. The Cavaliers struggled to generate scoring chances, but they did enough on defense to make it to halftime and regroup.
“At halftime I said, ‘You guys, if we end the game this way, you’re not gonna be happy with it,’” Virginia head coach Michele Madison said. “You have a chance to change it. Go out there and be aggressive and start working for each other.”
After struggling in the first 30 minutes, Virginia outshot the Terrapins 14-2 in the second half. The Cavaliers controlled the pace and forced Maryland to play defensively. It was a drastic switch from the first half, but the Terrapins did enough defensively to keep the game tied at 0-0.
Madison described herself as a “nervous wreck” heading into overtime, but she felt the Cavaliers learned from their overtime loss to Maryland earlier in the season. They tried to make fewer one-on-one plays and focus more on crisp passing to capitalize in the final period.
The strategy worked as the Cavaliers broke through in overtime on a pass from Robinson to McDonough. The win punched their ticket to the NCAA semifinals.
“I love it,” Robinson said. “This is the happiest day so far, and hopefully it can keep going.”
The Cavaliers will face Princeton, which knocked them out of the NCAA Tournament each of the past three seasons, in the NCAA semifinals on Friday. A win puts Virginia in the NCAA championship game for the first time in program history.
“We’re back up against Princeton,” Madison said. “Let’s bring it down. Let’s take it down.”