LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Maryland field hockey midfielder Brooke DeBerdine hung her head as the clock hit zero in the 2018 national championship. Other players slowly walked off the Trager Stadium field heartbroken for the second consecutive year.
In 2017, after a rocky season, the Terps got hot in the NCAA tournament before falling to UConn with the title on the line.
Before the beginning of the 2018 season, Maryland’s team captains had a meeting where they vowed to return to the national championship game and, this time, leave as national champions.
This year, Maryland was one of the best teams in the nation all season, earning the No. 2-seed in the tournament and reaching the title game again with a chance at redemption. But the Terps ran into undefeated No. 1-seed North Carolina with the national championship on the line and came up one win short of their goal Sunday, losing 2-0.
“It’s obviously pretty upsetting,” midfielder Madison Maguire said. “You work all year round and all spring just to get here, you know, but I think our performance in the second half really showed our heart and how we wanted to play for the seniors.”
Maryland had squeaked past its previous two opponents, but the team looked stronger in the opening minutes against the Tar Heels than it had against Princeton in the semifinals Friday. The Terps appeared to have a goal less than three minutes into the contest, but officials waved it away because the ball was hit on the wrong side of the stick.
The Terps and Tar Heels went back and forth in possession in the earlygoing, but North Carolina started to dominate in the middle of the field towards the end of the half and scored two consecutive goals to put Maryland in a hole.
“We went into the game saying this is just another Sunday,” Tar Heel midfielder Ashley Hoffman said. “And this team wins on Sundays.”
The second goal came while Maryland was down a player, with DeBerdine out of play on a green card. North Carolina’s Erin Matson forced a Maryland turnover, dribbled the ball into the circle and took a shot, which goalkeeper Sarah Holliday initially saved. But Matson grabbed the rebound and lifted a shot over Holliday to double the UNC lead.
After going the whole first half without a shot, the Terps notched eight in the first 18 minutes of the second, desperate to slim their deficit. Maryland had multiple opportunities to score, including four penalty corners and a man-up chance, but couldn’t convert amidst stellar play from goalkeeper Amanda Hendry, who completed her fourth shutout this year, and the team’s 10th.
“We were just so dominant and just played our heart out there, every minute, every play,” defender Bodil Keus said. "We don’t give up, never, and you can see that through the second half. We just need to do that next time in the first half.”
Maryland outshot the Tar Heels, 9-8, behind the nine-shot second half, and the team was proud of that effort, even if it came in a loss.
“North Carolina has had an incredible season,” coach Missy Meharg said. “To go undefeated and come into a match like this and be outshot and out-cornered is a great testament to Maryland.”
But after struggling in the quarterfinals and semifinals, Meharg’s squad couldn’t knock off the best team in the nation, settling for second place — again.
“We’ll get 'em next year,” Maguire said.
Just like last year.