Sunday, May 21, 2006

Maryland downs Princeton 11-6

The 2nd seeded Maryland Terrapins (12-4) continued their impressive NCAA tournament run with an 11-6 victory over the 7th seeded Princeton Tigers (13-5).

The Tigers had owned the series as of late between the two teams, including their last match which cost the Terps a trip to the Final Four. This time the tables were turned as Maryland completely outclassed Princeton.

The scoring barrage started early for the Terrapins, scoring the first four goals in a the opening 7:15. The Tigers were completely incapable of even getting the ball on their side of the field. They lost 6 of the first 9 face-offs. Even when they did win they quickly would turn the ball over. Many of their possessions did not even result in a single shot. Scott Sowanick helped out the Tigers with an important goal to make the score 4-1 but Michael Phipps responded for Maryland with a quick shot and ended the first quarter of dominance 5-1.

Still, the theme of this week has been no lead is safe. The second quarter most assuredly belonged to the Tigers. When they finally held on to the ball, good things started to happen. In a span of three minutes the Tigers took complete control of the game with four goals. They might not have many shots but they were shooting a great percentage, starting the game 5 for 8. Maryland goalie Harry Alford could only look in disgust as Maryland had blown a four-goal lead.

The Terps did not wallow in despair for long. Midfielder Dan Groot picked up a huge goal from long range with his longstick. It was only his 5th goal of the season but it shifted the momentum back in Maryland's favor. Phipps would knock in one more goal with 3:24 in the half to give Maryland a 7-5 lead at the break.

With the quarters being split, one being dominated by Maryland and the other a surge by Princeton, the third would prove critical. Princeton could not make that key goal to cut the gap to one and put pressure on the second-seed. The physical play by Maryland was simply phenomenal. Tigers were flying across the field and the referees let both sides play. Brendan Healy used a great feed by Tewaaraton finalist Joe Walters to knock in the only goal of the quarter and make it an 8-5 cushion for Maryland.

The fourth quarter was some of the more excellent execution by the Terps. Ball control remained a critical aspect of the game. Princeton could not get the ball and when they did a stifling defense made them cough it up moments after they got it in their stick. Maryland had a 44-20 edge on ground balls and 13 more shots on goal than their competition.

Alford stepped up his game in the second half, recording six saves. He only gave up one goal in the second half in the waning minutes when Maryland already led 11-5. The Tigers had one offensive explosion in the second half but went nearly 40 minutes without a goal after that burst. That, more than anything else, foretold the end of the Tiger's season.

The stars showed up for Maryland. Walters and Phipps had 2 goals a piece and Healy added a hat trick to give Maryland more than enough offense. Given Virginia's rusty performance against Notre Dame, the Terrapins have looked better than anyone during the postseason. They reach their second consecutive Final Four and will take on the cardiac kids in UMass. Sean Morris and Joe Walters will both be the stars of this match up but it will most likely be the role players who decide this contest. Maryland is a better team than UMass, but with Jack Deane at the X for the Minutemen, anything is possible. Just ask Hofstra.

Princeton redeems their terrible season last year. All five of their losses were to tournament teams, and they have a spectacular sophomore goalie returning next season. Look for the Tigers to be a force next season.

Only one quarterfinal game remains. The Virginia/Georgetown winner will play Syracuse next week.


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