NCAA field hockey: UConn looks to finish off its perfect season with championship
UConn field hockey coach Nancy Stevens likes that her team has players who have experienced Final Fours and national championships before. And until Friday, Maryland didn't.
She also likes that her team has beaten five of the six teams Maryland lost to during the season.
And after the Huskies' 2-1 shootout victory over North Carolina Friday in the NCAA semifinal game, Stevens is feeling pretty good going into Sunday's NCAA championship game against the Terrapins at the University of Louisville's Trager Stadium. The game will start at 2 p.m.
It's top-ranked UConn's third trip in the last five years to the final; the undefeated Huskies (22-0) won in 2013 and 2014 and went to the Final Four in 2015 and 2016.
"Maryland has talent all over the field and they're strong in the goal," Stevens said. "We have great respect for their attack penalty corners, but the great thing is they have no players that have ever been to a Final Four [before this year] and most of our team has.
"Our sophomores and juniors and seniors have all been to multiple Final Fours and our seniors have won a national championship. I think experience wins the day."
Senior goalkeeper Nina Klein had a career-high 13 saves in Friday's victory, stopping a penalty stroke and three shootout attempts by North Carolina. Before Friday's game, she was ranked second in the country in goals-against average.
Senior Charlotte Veitner, the country's leading scorer, scored the Huskies' lone goal in regulation, her 32nd of the season, and had the first goal in the shootout, which UConn won 3-0.
"We practice them every week," Stevens said. "You go to the strongest [players] first. That way you can finish it, it's done. That's what we did. They never miss in practice.
"Then you have Nina. She's always been good at [shootouts]. She has a knack for it."
The ninth-ranked Terrapins (16-6) are going for their ninth NCAA championship, after beating No. 3 Michigan 5-1 in Friday's semifinal on the strength of two goals each by sophomore Madison Maguire and Bodil Kues, a freshman from the Netherlands. Michigan hadn't given up a goal since Oct. 22 in a 6-2 win over Louisville.
Maryland, which won NCAA titles in 2010-11, scored two goals off penalty corners Friday.
"They have some of the best penalty corners we have seenall year, so it's really important we keep their penalty corner opportunities down," Stevens said. "They're playing their best now. But we're playing our best, too."
The two teams haven't faced each other since Oct. 23, 2016, when Maryland rallied to beat the Huskies, 2-1.
"Maryland comes with a lot of hard pressure [on defense]," Stevens said. "If we can get out of that pressure, we'll be in wide open spaces. If we're poised under pressure, I think we can have great success.
"We had a great practice today. I feel good about [Sunday]."
This article is written by Lori Riley from The Hartford Courant and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.