CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Stellar defensive play and a hat trick from freshman Sarah Sprink led third-seeded Maryland past second-seeded Virginia 5-1 on Friday in the ACC Semifinals.
The Terrapins took an early 1-0 lead in the 11th minute and never looked back. The defensive effort, led by senior Janessa Pope, held Virginia’s two Olympians, Michelle Vittese and Paige Selenski, to just two shots combined.
“Our team has been looking for a breakout game all season, to be honest,” head coach Missy Meharg said. “We’re a team that’s still evolving.
“With Virginia, you need to keep the ball away from [Vittese and Selenski] and if you put it in the belly of the field, you’re probably going to lose the game. We were able to watch our first game in detail. With good teams, it’s Michelle Vittese, it’s Paige Selenski, it’s Elly Buckley and if you can quiet them with incredible doubling down laterally and north-south, you can be very dominant. Maryland’s attention to detail and execution was stellar.”
Pope put the Terrapins on the board in the 11th minute when she scored off a penalty corner. She cracked a shot off the corner, but it was saved by Virginia’s keeper Jenny Johnstone. On the rebound, Pope snagged it away from Johnstone and shot it in for the lead.
With just under two minutes left in the first half, senior Megan Frazer fed Lindsey Puckett on the far post for a 2-0 Maryland advantage at halftime.
Eight minutes into the second half, freshman Sarah Sprink scored off a penalty corner setup by senior Harriet Tibble and sophomore Katie Gerzabek to make it 3-0. Two minutes later, the same trio struck again as Sprink got one in over the line for a four-goal lead.
Virginia’s Paige Selenski put the Cavaliers on the board in the 58th minute.
Sprink extended Maryland’s lead with two minutes remaining in the game when she knocked in a goal off a rebounded shot on a corner.
Maryland outshot Virginia 13-6 and had six penalty corners to three. Junior goalkeeper Natalie Hunter had three saves.
Maryland (16-4, 3-2 ACC) will play top-seeded North Carolina (19-1, 5-1) Sunday in the ACC Championship match in Chapel Hill, N.C. In the regular-season meeting Oct. 20, the Terrapins held a 3-1 lead in the second half, but the Heels tied it up to force overtime and won 4-3 in the 77th minute.
The match-up will mark Maryland’s 23rd appearance in the ACC championship game in its 30 years in the tournament. The Terps and the Tar Heels will meet in the finale for the 10th time.
The Terrapins have won nine ACC Championships, all under head coach Missy Meharg, including the 2008, 2009 and 2010 crowns.