Howard, Aust key Terrapins romp

Buried on the bench for three seasons behind All-America goalie Brittany Dipper, Kasey Howard sometimes wondered if her time would come to start for the Maryland Terrapins.

Winning the job this season after the graduation of Dipper, Howard has been as good as anyone could have expected for the undefeated Terps. Saturday in the NCAA quarterfinals, her play was critical as Maryland pulled away from Duke in a 14-9 victory in College Park.

With Howard making seven saves, including several from point-blank range, and Alex Aust (five goals, two assists) leading the offense, the Terps had all the answers as they advanced to the NCAA final four for the fifth straight time. Maryland (21-0) will play Syracuse (18-3) in the semifinals Friday at Villanova University.

Duke (14-6) was the last team that had beaten Maryland in the quarterfinal round, toppling the Terps 9-7 in College Park in 2008. But this Blue Devils squad was missing two of its top four scorers. Senior Makenzie Hommel (44 goals) was out with a concussion and sophomore Brigid Smith (20 goals) had a quadriceps tear.

Against its ACC rival, Maryland never trailed. In the opening 6:03, sophomore Brooke Griffin (three goals) converted a free-position shot and freshman Halle Majorana slipped a rebound past Duke's left-handed goalie Kelsey Duryea (15 saves). Winning 16 of 26 draws, the Blue Devils had opportunities, but with Howard making stops, they never strung together consecutive goals until the final 7:10, when they scored four cosmetic tallies.

"We have tremendous confidence in her," All-America defender Iliana Sanza said of Howard. "We know what she can do in practice. It's awesome to see her get her position this year. She's been ready. She's stepped up. We have all the trust in her."

Howard, a graduate of Broadneck who won the job over red-shirt sophomore Abby Clipp, has a 43.9 save percentage and a goals-against average of 8.1, 10th best in the nation.

"We challenged both of our goalies in the beginning of the year saying, 'Who's gonna step up,'" Maryland coach Cathy Reese said. "Kasey's done that. She's really developed into a leader on the defensive end for us."

Howard was much more effective on Saturday that the final score indicated. Her best save came with 11:15 left when she stopped a one-on-one try by junior Molly Quirke (three goals).

"It's really a mental position," Howard said. "I just try to stay calm -- one shot at a time, one minute at a time, everything's broken down, try not to look at the big picture."

Bullis-graduate Aust (67 goals, 52 assists), who is the nation's second-leading scorer, dominated the last 20 minutes of the first half and first 10 minutes of the second half, scoring or assisting on seven of the Terps nine goals as they rushed to an 11-4 advantage. With many of the tallies coming in transition, Duke had little protection for its stellar goalie Duryea.

"Maryland plays a great scramble game," Duke coach Kerstin Kimel said. "If you allow too much of that, you can really dig yourself into a hole really quickly. And we did that unfortunately."