There, No. 3-seeded Maryland will make its fourth straight final four appearance in hopes of avenging its 2011 title game loss and taking home the program’s 11th NCAA championship.
Standing in its way, though, is a squad that might be even more comfortable in the high-stakes environment.
It’s a daunting task, but Maryland goalie Brittany Dipper insists her team isn’t concerned with the weight of the Wildcats’ hardware.
“[We’re] just focusing on ourselves and just taking it one step at a time and focusing on the little things — getting groundballs, the hustle, and working together,” said Dipper, who also has played for an NCAA title in field hockey. “The rest will take care of itself.”
Top-seeded Florida and No. 4 seed Syracuse will square off in the other semifinal Friday, and the national championship will take place Sunday at 8 p.m.
Northwestern eked out an 8-7 victory against the Terrapins in last year’s title game. Shannon Smith, who is just two goals shy of breaking Northwestern’s all-time record, will return to likely wreak havoc on the Terrapins’ defense.
This go-around, Maryland will have a fresh rebuttal.
Senior Karri Ellen Johnson was selected first-team All-America during her freshman and sophomore campaigns before sustaining a season-ending concussion in a game against James Madison as a junior. Johnson was sidelined for the last 12 games of the season.
Having missed out on the opportunity to compete for a national championship last season, Johnson can’t help but approach this year’s final four with a different mindset.
“I think when something is taken away from you obviously it means that much more,” she said. “You play with a little more heart and you hustle just a little bit more.”
Johnson, one of three starting seniors on Maryland, is second in scoring and leads the Terrapins in draw controls.
“That’s the best part, when you see your players overcome things like that and set themselves up and have the opportunity to finish out their career that way,” she said. “There’s no doubt in my mind she’s just going to enjoy it and she’s going to play her heart out. Whatever happens happens, but she’s going to leave the field having given it everything she can.”View Entire Story
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