Maryland field hockey forward Linnea Gonzales didn't want overlook what she deemed a crafty Wake Forest side Saturday, but the junior forward hoped for a rematch with No. 2-seed Duke in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
She helped make that wish come true, driving Maryland's 2-0 win against the Demon Deacons to secure another matchup with the Blue Devils. The victory extended Maryland's winning streak against Wake Forest to 11 games.
Gonzales' finish in the 23rd minute of the victory in Durham, North Carolina put coach Missy Meharg's team ahead for good. Maryland's backline was dominant, not allowing the Demon Deacons to earn a penalty corner or score. The Terps will face the Blue Devils on Sunday afternoon with a trip to the Final Four on the line.
Maryland lost to Duke, 2-0, in the Big Ten/ACC Cup on Sept. 1.
"I can't say enough about our team defensively," Meharg said. "I don't remember having a game where we didn't give up a penalty corner. It was important with [Wake Forest] because they're one of the highest scoring teams on penalty corners."
Throughout Maryland's first-round NCAA tournament matchup, the Terps displayed their ability to control a game, a trait that sparked a late season seven-game winning streak that catapulted them into the postseason.
Maryland worked in the opening minutes to bypass Wake Forest's midfield.
At first, the squad's long passes often landed out of bounds. But about midway through the first half, the Terps started to connect, helping move forward quickly after earning possession.
Gonzales was the first to capitalize as she fought for possession with about 12 minutes remaining in the opening period. She eventually controlled the ball and took a backhand shot that landed in the upper part of the net to give Maryland a 1-0 lead.
The Terps' press was effective and kept the Demon Deacons off the board. Maryland has shut out three of its last four opponents. After each contest, Maryland names a Player of the Game. Saturday, the whole team earned the accolade for its defense.
"To have three-fourths of our backfield be freshman with [senior] Carrie Hanks out there," Meharg said. "I'm so proud of them."
Wake Forest threatened before the intermission, when forward Rachel Hirsch took a shot seemingly headed for the back of the net. It bounced off the post.
Maryland carried a 1-0 lead into halftime, outshooting the Demon Deacons, 9-2, up to that point.
Midfielder Madison Maguire's score in the 55th minute made it a 2-0 contest. The Terps wouldn't need that extra offense, though, as the Demon Deacons attempted just one shot in the second half.
After failing to reach the Big Ten tournament championship game for the first time since joining the conference, the Terps are seeking their first trip to the Final Four since 2013. But first, they'll have to get past the Blue Devils team that Gonzales is excited to face a second time.
"Today was just a really good day for team connection, and our defense was on," Gonzales said. "We were able to see our potential and connection come together. That's really exciting for us because we look to bring that tomorrow."