The Penn State Nittany Lions' field hockey squad came to College Park riding a five game winning streak that propelled them to the number four ranking in the most recent NFHCA poll. Despite being out shot 19-11 and giving up 12 corners to 3, the Terps ended that streak by taking a 4-3 win and improving to 4-1 in Big Ten play and 10-2 overall.
"It was a fantastic result for Maryland. It's also very good to win a game when you are 'out statisticked' in both shots and penalty corners," said Maryland head coach Missy Meharg.
The Terps opened with the first possession but the Nittany Lions were the more energetic and aggressive team over the first four minutes or so. Maryland began to figure things out and turned up a bit of pressure of their own creating a good opportunity on a steal by Anna Dessoye who played a ball into the circle for reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Week Moira Putsch. Nittany Lions goalie Kylie Licata came far off her line and distracted Putsch enough to allow her defense to recover and clear the ball.
After a Penn State penalty corner, Maryland mounted a patient counter attack. They needed several minutes but would finally break through when Carrie Hanks, attacking on a free hit down the left side played the the ball to Dessoye who drove along the back line. With the Nittany Lions' defense collapsing on Katie Gerzabeck who was positioned at the near post, Dessoye played the ball out to Lein Holsboer and the freshman from the Netherlands picked up her second goal in as many games giving the Terps the lead in the tenth minute.
However, Penn State was not intimidated and was also well prepared for Maryland's quick restarts and counters with quick restarts of their own. The visitors twice picked up a pair of penalty corners when the Terps' defense failed to clear the ball after two saves by Maryland goalie Brooke Cabrera. On their third try, the Nittany Lions finally broke through, getting the equalizer in the 14th minute.
The Terps finally picked up their first penalty corner of the half in the 27th minute. Though they failed to capitalize on that chance, they did score on a corner five minutes later. And again is was Holsboer who was in the right place at the right time. She was able to redirect Sarah Sprink's high blast past Licata and put the Terps back into the lead at 2-1. They would carry that margin into halftime.
For 16 minutes it looked like the second half would belong to Penn State. The Nittany Lions came out playing an even more physical and aggressive style they had at the game's outset. "Penn State is the most athletic, most aggressive, they took their self starts on replays faster than any team we've seen thus far," Meharg said. The Nittany Lions possessed the ball, cut off Maryland's passing lanes and angles when the Terps did try to counter, and earned penalty corners both early and late. But it was to no avail and it would be Maryland who would break through not once but twice.
Maxine Fluharty initiated the first score on a free hit from just outside midfield. She fired a pass toward Alyssa Parker who had floated deep into the scoring circle behind Penn State defender Cori Conley. Conley dove at Fluharty's pass watched as it rolled under her outstretched stick, Licata was again forced off her line but Parker gathered the ball calmly and waited for space to open in the Nittany Lions' defense to put the ball home opening Maryland's lead to 3-1 with just over 18 minutes to play.
Less than two minutes later the lead became 4-1 on a penalty stroke scored by Anna Dessoye. Normally a three goal lead with sixteen minutes to play is quite safe particularly against a team of Maryland's quality. But Penn State fought back picking up 7 second half penalty corners and converting two of them - one with three minutes to play and the other with 1:17 to play - into goals.
A sloppy Maryland pass on the restart after the last goal gave the ball right back to Penn State but the Terrapins' defense held strong and behind a season high 10 saves by Cabrera, many of the spectacular variety, they protected the 4-3 win.
Maryland returns to the pitch Sunday afternoon for a non conference game when the Penn Quakers come to College Park. Game time is scheduled for 1:00 pm.