- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 12, 2006

Maryland goalie Harry Alford’s performance yesterday might have been his latest example of dominance. It also could have been a byproduct of Towson’s shaky shooting.

Either way, Alford left little doubt he is the biggest reason the top-ranked Terrapins remain undefeated.

Alford saved 12 shots, including a point-blank stop early in the fourth quarter, as the Terps held off the No. 15 Tigers 9-6 before 3,253 at Byrd Stadium.

“It’s quite the X-factor when your goalie robs the other team,” Maryland coach Dave Cottle said.

Alford, a second-year starter, already has displayed more consistency as a junior than he did in an up-and-down sophomore season. He has posted double figures in saves in the Terps’ first three games, including a dozen March 4 at then-No. 1 Duke.

The Terps (3-0) were understandably drained after that victory. They found themselves in a tie game with their cross-state rivals after Towson’s Bobby Griebe scored as time expired in the third quarter.

Griebe nearly put the Tigers (1-2) ahead with 12:25 left, getting a clean look at Alford on the crease. The junior faked twice before firing at point-blank range, but Alford went high to make the save.

“Momentum definitely shifted to our side,” Alford said. “I felt I needed to step up. Third quarter, I played awful. I thought it was really important for me to step up and make a big save.”

Added midfielder Brendan Healy: “When he’s on, he is on. He has been all season. His confidence is as high as it’s ever been. I think he’s the best goalie in the country. We know if things go wrong, Harry’s going to bail us out.”

Not everyone was as impressed with Alford. Towson trailed 4-0 at halftime despite earning some good looks early in the game, and the Tigers ripped off five goals in the third quarter as Alford momentarily struggled.

The save of Griebe’s goal-mouth shot seemed to deflate the Tigers, who shot 1-for-9 in the final quarter.

“I thought Harry Alford should come over and shake hands with every player at Towson and say ‘Thank you very much for shooting the ball at me, on me, in me,’” Towson coach Tony Seaman said. “When we didn’t put it on him or in him or hit a part of his body, we had a goal. … We hit every part of his body today. When you hit people’s bodies, you’re shooting [poorly].”

Midfielder Xander Ritz put the Terps ahead less than two minutes later, zipping around the cage past midfielder Nick Williams for the goal. Healy then zinged in a pair of shots to make it 8-5 and all but secure the victory.

Healy recorded a hat trick, his first goals of the season. Maryland attackman Joe Walters also broke out for three goals after scoring only once in the Terps’ first two games.

The re-emergence of both seniors ensured the Terps avoided losing in their first game as the nation’s No.1 team since April 2004.

“This is definitely a really important game in terms of getting over a hump or if we were going to be like the other Terp teams from past years,” Alford said. “Are we going to be 2-1 or 3-0?”

Maryland has won 12 of the teams’ last 13 meetings, but there have been no blowouts in recent years. Yesterday’s game also reflected the usual sloppiness in the rivalry as the teams combined for 45 turnovers.

The Terps weren’t nearly as inefficient during a nine-turnover effort in their conference opener a week earlier against Duke.

“I think it’s tough because of the Duke game,” Walters said. “You’re so high, it’s an ACC game, it’s the first one and it’s a huge game. It’s a tough game to come back after.”

The Tigers haven’t defeated Maryland since the 2001 NCAA quarterfinals, but it wasn’t for lack of opportunities yesterday. With nearly an even split of faceoffs and equally sloppy play on both sides, Towson had a chance to slip out of College Park with a victory.

“You’ve got to make plays,” Seaman said. “That’s what it comes down to. That’s why you give out scholarships.”

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