NORFOLK, Va. — Despite taking the lead twice in the first half, it took Teresa Benvenuti’s overtime penalty stroke goal to send Princeton to the NCAA Championship. The Tigers (20-1) handed defending national champion Maryland a 3-2 loss in the semifinals and will face top-seeded North Carolina in the finals. UNC advanced to the championship behind a 6-1 victory against Syracuse.
The Tigers took control immediately, but were unable to keep their advantage before halftime. On a long drive down the field, Kathleen Sharkey picked up the ball on the left side outside the circle. The nation’s leading scorer then maneuvered around several Maryland defenders into the circle and ripped a forehand shot into the goal to put Princeton up 1-0 at 3:17.
Six minutes later, Maryland was awarded consecutive penalty corner opportunities, capitalizing on its second. After the initial shot was deflected by goalie Christina Maida, the Terrapins’ Jill Witmer tapped in the tying goal at 9:09.
With 20:55 to play, the Terps’ Janessa Pope sprinted past the Tiger backline and set up for a one-on-one shot with Maida. Pope’s drive was abruptly stopped as Maida dived out of the cage to kick the ball out of the circle.
Sharkey continued to look for scoring chances to break the tie. With 12 minutes left in the first, she circled past Terp defenders. With a quick backstroke, she sent in a shot from the right side, but Maryland’s goalie Natalie Hunter was able to kick it out of the circle.
Down a player due to a card, Princeton drove the ball into the Maryland circle and Sharkey was there again to finish on another goal. Katie Reinprecht picked up the loose ball and connected with Sharkey on the right side of the cage. Sharkey’s first shot was deflected by Hunter, but she followed through to lift Princeton to a 2-1 advantage at 25:47.
With less than six minutes to play in the first half, Princeton was awarded two penalty corners, but was unable to finish on either chance. On the second corner, Maryland shot the ball into the Princeton half of the field. Tiger defender Kelsey Bryne sprinted to a charging Terp striker, stole the ball and fed it back into the Terps half of the field preventing them from taking on Maida one-on-one.
Maida finished the game with three saves.
Down 2-1 at 57:20, a Maryland penalty corner was deflected off a Tiger defender and the Terrps were awarded a penalty stroke. Maryland’s Ali McEvoy chipped in the stroke above Maida’s head to even the score two.
As time expired, the Tigers earned a pair of penalty corners. Princeton was unable to find a clear line to the cage, sending the game into overtime.
Princeton controlled possession from the beginning of the overtime period. Michelle Cesan drove the ball into the circle on the right side, but was fouled in the circle and earned a penalty stroke.
Benvenuti went up to take the stroke and slammed in the ball past Hunter to the right side at the 75:56-minute mark.
Princeton held advantages in shots (9-8), shots on goal (8-5) and penalty corners (6-4). Maryland held a 5-3 differential in saves.