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Nov. 17, 2022 — Inside the Division I Final Four

Tomorrow at around noon, the final two NCAA Division I women’s college field hockey games will commence as North Carolina battles Penn State in a game at the University of Connecticut.

The four teams that have made it to Storrs have made it through many troubles and opponents, making the winner of Sunday’s grand final a truly worthy champion.

All four of these teams have great players, but also have some truly stars of the U.S. scholastic realm, and are ready to make some history.


NORTH CAROLINA vs. PENN STATE
The obvious: The struggle for dominance amongst Division I field hockey conferences is manifest in this match between the current Big Ten Conference regular-season co-champion and the ACC champion.

The not-so-obvious:
Rare is the time that you will see 81 seasons and 1,348 wins in the coaching boxes. But that’s what you’ll see when Karen Shelton and Char Morett-Curtis face each other. But for all of Penn State’s excellence over the years, the Nittany Lions have yet to win a national championship.

Key players: UNC: Erin Matson, sr., f; Meredith Sholder, sr., m/d; Ryleigh Heck, fr., f; Ashley Sessa, fr., f, Paityn Wirth, sr., f. PSU: Mackenzie Allessie, sr., f; Sophia Gladieux, jr., f, Anna Simon, gr., F, Jemma Punch, sr., f., Brie Barraco, sr., g.

UNC wins this game if: They limit turnovers and jump on Penn State early. If they get two in the first 5 to 10 minutes, it could be all but over by the interval.

Penn State wins this game if: Brie Barraco has the game of her life in goal. Which has been known to happen in circumstances like these.

The skinny: The number of goals that many of these players have scored in high school is enormous. In the lineup tomorrow is the all-time leading goal-scorer in scholastic field hockey in Allessie. You will also see No. 3 (Heck), No. 7 (Sholder), No. 8 (Gladieux), and No. 12 (Wirth). If this is a goalfest, I’d definitely favor UNC, but it Penn State plays the kind of defense it did in the quarterfinals against Albany, the Lions could be making that one move towards a level it has never attained.


MARYLAND vs. NORTHWESTERN
The obvious: A Big Ten battle featuring your defending national champion

The not-so-obvious: When Maryland joined the Big Ten in 2014, many followers of women’s sports believed that this would set up a golden age of rivalry between the Terp women’s lacrosse team and Northwestern. In field hockey, the move had an effect on the head-to-head matchup. Before the move to the Big Ten, Maryland had won 13 straight. Since then, Northwestern leads the record, eight games to six, including a number of very close games.

Key players: UMD: Bibi Donradt, gr., f; Hope Rose., so., f; Danielle vsn Rootselaar, gr., m; Leah Crouse, gr., f/m; Emma Deberdine., sr., m; Rayne Wright., jr., d. NU: Lauren Wadas., jr., m; Maddie Zimmer., jr., m; Bente Baekers., gr., f; Alia Marshall, sr., m/d; Peyton Halsey., sr., m; Annabel Skubisz., jr., g

Maryland wins this game if: Hope Rose is allowed time and space to create chances in the attack. She is a disruptor and can open space in the back.

Northwestern wins thie game if: Lauren Wadas and Maddie Zimmer are allowed to create chances in the front third; they are rare players who can take the ball right as defenders. Annabel Skubisz could win the game by herself, however.

The skinny: The teams have split games already this season and each team has a 2-1 win over the other. Can you say “overtime”?


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