May 26, 2013

Howard Keeps Terps in it Until the End

by Justin Feil | | Live Blog Replay

Maryland senior goalie Kasey Howard "kept us in the game," Terps coach Cathy Reese said. She made four of her five stops in overtime, but the Tar Heels rallied to win.
© Lee Weissman

* UNC Beats Maryland in Triple OT to Win First Title
* Long Time Coming, but Tar Heels Claim Crown

VILLANOVA, Pa. — Maryland's perfect season ended in sudden death overtime when North Carolina goalie Megan Ward made a brilliant save and the Tar Heels' capitalized with a goal seconds later on a Sammy Jo Tracy transition score for a 13-12 win in the NCAA Division I women's championship on Sunday.

With Maryland senior goalie Kasey Howard at her best throughout overtime, it was easy for the Terrapins to envision the exact opposite happening.

"She kept us in the game," said Maryland head coach Cathy Reese. "She kept giving us opportunities. We just couldn't put one away at the other end."

Maryland had chances. They had four shots in overtime, but North Carolina had seven overtime shots. Howard made four of her five saves in overtime after making just one in the first half and none in the second half even as the Terrapins rallied from a 9-6 halftime deficit to force overtime.

"I think she wasn't seeing the ball well at all in the first half," Reese said. "They were 9-for-9 at one point is what it felt like. We just weren't seeing it, weren't getting touches on it. All of a sudden in overtime, the girls' adrenaline is going. They're playing hard. And Kasey is saving a 1-on-1 with one of Carolina's attackers and she's coming up big on an 8-meter, which is another opportunity there."

Howard made a huge save to start the first overtime as North Carolina's Brittney Coppa raced straight in on her. When sudden-death overtime began, she saved a shot by Tewaraaton Award finalist Kara Cannizzaro. Two minutes later as the final seconds ticked off that period, Howard got a piece of a shot by Aly Messinger, who already had three goals. Cannizzaro fired wide on a free position shot to end that second sudden death 3:00 period.

"It was amazing," said Maryland senior Alex Aust. "We have full confidence in Kasey and we know that she has the ability to make those big-time saves. It was awesome every time she gave us another opportunity to get the ball back and have possession. It was great. We expect that from her. She's awesome."

While Aust and Katie Schwarzmann have been starting since they were freshmen and were playing in their third national final, Howard was making the most of her first and only opportunity. Of the seniors that start for the Terps, she was the least experienced going into the championship weekend.

"This is her chance this year to step up and play," Reese said. "She hadn't had much playing time at all for the last three years. For her, in that role, now she's in the national championship playing in like five overtimes and coming up big and giving us more opportunities.

"We didn't attack as hard as I would have liked in those overtime periods. The girls were exhausted."

Taylor Cummings and Schwarzmann had three goals apiece, while Brooke Griffin and Beth Glaros had a pair of goals apiece and Griffin added three assists. Aust had a goal and assist, and Erin Collins had a goal.

Maryland fell behind in the first half due to nine turnovers that offset their 12-4 draw control advantage. They finished with an uncharacteristic 17 turnovers, one off their season-high. The turnovers put Maryland on defense more often than they have been accustomed to, and the Terrapins struggled early.

"We didn't play particularly great defense in the first half," Reese said. "That was what we focused on at halftime. We weren't really giving Kasey any chance to make any saves. We made adjustments and did much better in the second half and overtime. That allowed Kasey to come up big, especially in overtime, when both goalies came up big with saves."

A 6-3 edge in the second half sent the game into overtime. It was the first overtime game for the Terrapins, who had steamrolled their schedule this year. Friday's semifinal win over Syracuse was the first time that they had trailed in the second half. In the final, Maryland was faced with its largest deficit of the season – three goals – over and over in the first half.

"I guess this was a weekend of new experiences in those areas," Reese said. "I think you have to take a step back from a game like that. These girls played hard. They left their hearts on the field – both teams.

"That could have gone either way. It's pretty classic of a Maryland-Carolina matchup. There were opportunities on both ends during those sudden death overtime periods. Theirs just happened to fall first."

The UNC goal ended a four-year stretch for her senior class that has enjoyed one of the great runs in recent Maryland history.

"To come in as a freshman and play in the national championship game and go out as a senior and do the same thing," Schwarzmann said, "many people don't get to do that."

Maryland fell just painfully shy of its 11th national title in program history. It would have bookended the careers of its senior class.

"That's the hardest part right now," Reese said. "I think I have a phenomenal group of seniors. I've told this group, I've been a part of a lot of Maryland teams and I think this team we have is one of the best. The group of seniors, they've participated in three national championship games and one national semifinal. This group throughout their career has had tremendous success – four ACC championships and an undefeated regular season this year.

"They've really led the way the entire way. Their energy, their passion, their excitement, their support for their teammates fueled this team's fire. That's where it hurts the most. You wanted to see them have this last opportunity to add to their stack that they already have."

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