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Maryland field hockey starts season with 3-2 win over UMass

Maryland's 3-2 season opening win over tenth ranked Massachusetts was a bit like a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western. Some good. Some bad. Some ugly.

Terps on a penalty corner vs. UMass
Terps on a penalty corner vs. UMass

"We're very pleased with the outcome," Maryland coach Missy Meharg said after the Terrapins field hockey squad edged tenth ranked UMass 3-2 Friday evening at the Spooky Nook Sports Complex in Manheim, PA. There were other aspects of the Terps' performance that also, no doubt, pleased the coach. "It's great to be under a lot of pressure from a very athletic UMass team that's very well coached by (Maryland graduate) Carla Tagliente and very opportunistic. Our team was exceedingly brilliant at times," she added.

On the last point, my game notes agreed with that assessment. For much of the game, the Terps passed crisply, attacked relentlessly (particularly in the second half), tackled well in the midfield and in the defensive third, and for the most part, recovered quickly on defense. For the most part because the Terps had two notable defensive lapses and both times, the Minutewomen capitalized.

Playing well to start

UMass opened the game with some early pressure but Maryland responded quickly generating an early chance of their own. Katie Gerzabek took a sharp pass down the right side following a strong tackle in the midfield by newcomer Rachel Frusher. Gerzabek centered the ball but the shot from freshman Moira Putsch sailed high. Maryland continued their pressure probing the UMass defense by varying built up attacks with long penetrating passes.

The Terps earned the first penalty corner of the game in the eighth minute after first Alyssa Parker, who had taken one of those long passes from Sarah Sprink, and then Maxine Fluharty each had a shot blocked. However, the Terps didn't cleanly stop the insertion from Putsch and it resulted in a turnover.

A hard foul by UMass' Cliodhna Laughlin who simply bulldozed Gerzabek earned her a green card and a two minute player advantage for the Terps. Though the Terps did a nice job controlling the ball, they were unable to generate a shot and the Minutewomen killed the penalty.

The Terps also successfully killed off a two minute penalty following a green card issued to freshman Lien Holsboer at the 16:26 mark. Maryland's pressure finally played off shortly after killing the penalty when Anna Dessoye picked up a ball that had initially been trapped by UMass goalie Sam Carlino and tipped it in. Just over three minutes later, Alyssa Parker, showing some very skilled stick work, took the ball past Carlino to put the Terps up by two with 13:12 to play.

Despite a long UMass possession in the later stages of the half when the Terps had some difficulty clearing their defensive zone, Maryland's defense contained the Minutewomen preventing them from getting any good looks on goal. With 2:04 to play in the half, Gerzabek picked up a green card and UMass used the player advantage and a slight defensive lapse when the Terrapins failed to clear a rebound off of goalie Brooke Cabrera's save. The score halved the Maryland lead with just 45 seconds to play in the period.

However, 45 seconds can be a long time in field hockey and some loose passing by Maryland on the restart resulted in a turnover and Massachusetts took advantage by drawing their lone penalty corner of the half as time expired, Maryland's defense was up to the task and cleared the ball out of the circle as the half ended.

Except on the scoreboard

If the Terps controlled the play in the first half, they absolutely dominated it in the second - except on the scorebord. For the half, Maryland out shot Massachusetts 17 to 3 and had seven penalty corners to two for UMass. After scoring on two of eight shots in the first half, and despite putting twelve shots on goal, the Terps converted only once in those seventeen tries in the second.

According to the scorer, Shari Jones her goal, which came in the fifty-sixth minute was a bit of an accident. Gerzabek played a ball toward the left side. Then, as Jones describes it, "I was just stepping up toward the goal and was going to tip it to the far post but it went over the goalie and in."

Still, as Meharg said, "Taking 25 shots should result in a win. We'll work hard to execute better in that respect. We weren't as balanced in the circle as we needed to be. We sometimes chose shots that were a little bit too low percentage like swinging on aerial balls versus trapping and shooting."

As for the Terrapins failure to convert on any of their eight penalty corners, Meharg cited the turf as a contributing factor. Apparently, the field at Spooky Nook dries out very quickly which resulted in some difficult and unexpected bounces on the corner insertions.

Jones' goal was a crucial one as it provided a cushion the Terps needed. With just under nine and a half minutes to play, the Terps failed to recover quickly enough on transition defense after a turnover and again, UMass capitalized as Nicole Miller picked up her second score of the game easily putting the ball over Cabrera into the top left corner - a situation in which the Maryland goalie had little chance.

There was on last moment of tension remaining. Just as they had at the end of the first half, the Minutewomen picked up a penalty corner - only their third of the game - as time expired. Because the game or half will end on either a goal by the offense or a clearing play by the defense, the offensive team doesn't need to leave any defenders back  to protect against a possible counter. This allows them to put ten players around the scoring circle and, as a result, create more options and making it that much harder for the four defenders and goalie allowed on penalty corner defense. For the second time on the day, however, Maryland's penalty corner defense was up to the task pushing the shot wide and over the baseline to secure the 3-2 win.

The Terps are back in action Sunday afternoon in their final game of the Conference Cup at Spooky Nook. They will take on Northeastern University who dropped their first game in the Cup losing to Temple 4-2 Friday night. Sunday's game is scheduled for a 1:00 pm start.