FAN’s NCAA DI field hockey Final Four predictions: North Carolina vs Penn State, Northwestern vs Maryland

Four powerhouse Division I teams remain in the battle for the 2022 NCAA Title. Each has its own story of how they arrived in Storrs, Conn. From seasoned veterans to standout rookies, Friday’s Final Four is sure to leave epic memories.

Northwestern is eyeing its second straight title, while North Carolina is vying for its fourth title in the last five seasons. Maryland is looking to win its first title since 2011 and Penn State is seeking its first NCAA National Championship.

We’ve got everything you need to know about the upcoming matchups set to take place on Friday starting at noon.

North Carolina vs Penn State – noon

No. 1 North Carolina (19-0; 6-0 ACC)

How They Got Here: North Carolina topped Delaware 5-1 and St. Joseph’s 5-2 to advance to the Final Four. Erin Matson (Chadds Ford, Pa.) led the way offensively as she scored a hat trick in her final home game at Karen Shelton Stadium. Tallying 25 goals so far this season, Matson leads an offense that averages 4.16 goals per game.

Player to Watch: Ashley Sessa

The freshman forward has scored in back-to-back games against Delaware and St. Joseph’s in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Sessa (Schwenksville, Pa.) ranks third on the team with nine goals and five assists for 23 points. She earned second team All-ACC honors earlier this month.

No. 6 Penn State (17-3; 7-1 BIG)

How They Got Here: Penn State posted back-to-back shutouts to advance to the Final Four for the first time 2007. Anna Simon and Sophia Gladieux (Boyertown, Pa.) each scored a pair of goals in a 5-0 win against Louisville while Mackenzie Allessie (Mount Joy, Pa.) scored the game-winner with six minutes left in regulation for a 1-0 win over UAlbany.

Player to Watch: Brie Barraco

The senior goalkeeper has been a brick wall in the cage as she did not allow a goal through the first two games of the NCAA Tournament. Barraco (Allentown, Pa.) posted six saves against Louisville and five saves against UAlbany, including a key save off a penalty corner in the final minutes of regulation to preserve the 1-0 win.

Key Stat: Both defenses have allowed an average of 1.05 goals per game.

Prediction: North Carolina wins 3-2 in OT. Gladieux and Matson each score a goal.

Northwestern vs Maryland – 3 p.m.

No. 2 Northwestern

How They Got Here: Northwestern won a pair of shootouts in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament to advance to the Final Four for a second straight season. The Wildcats defeated Miami (OH) 2-1 with Lauren Wadas (Annville, Pa.) scoring the game-winner. In the quarterfinals, Northwestern avenged an early season loss against Iowa downing the Hawkeyes 2-1 with Ana Medina Garcia netting the game-winner followed by a huge stop from Annabel Skubisz.

Player to Watch: Peyton Halsey  

Halsey (Reading, Pa.) has elevated her game offensively this season as she ranks second on the Wildcats in scoring with 13 goals and four assists for 30 points, all-career highs. The senior midfielder has also converted on five-of-six penalty stroke attempts, including the opening goal in their 2-1 win over Miami.

No. 3 Maryland

How They Got Here: Avenging their double overtime loss from last year’s Final Four, Maryland downed Liberty2-1 in double overtime in the first round thanks to a penalty stroke from Riley Donnelly (Doylestown, Pa.). Hope Rose (Dauphin, Pa.) scored the game-winner in a 3-2 shootout win over Syracuse in the NCAA quarterfinals to return to the Final Four for a second straight year.

Player to Watch: Emma DeBerdine

The senior midfielder tallied a goal and an assist in Maryland’s 3-2 shootout win over Syracuse to advance to the semifinals. DeBerdine (Lancaster, Pa.) has recorded at least a point in her last two of four games after missing some games in Oct.

Key Stat: Both offenses are not afraid to shoot as Northwestern averages 19.0 shots and Maryland averages 19.7 shots per game.

Prediction: Maryland downs Northwestern 2-1 in regulation. Hope Rose scores the game-winner for Maryland.

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