No. 2 Maryland field hockey hadn’t played up to its standards in the first half against American on Tuesday — the Terps struggled to connect on passes and penetrate the Eagles’ defense.
But after nearly 55 scoreless minutes between the two teams, Maryland senior defender Kelee Lepage corralled a cross inside the circle and smacked a back-handed shot past the outstretched American keeper to break the scoreless drought.
Lepage’s late goal pushed the Terps to a 1-0 victory over the Eagles, marking the second consecutive year the team has finished with 16 regular season wins.
“A match that I expected,” coach Missy Meharg said. “I think [American coach] Steve Jennings and his players always play such a tactical game.”
Maryland (16-2, 7-1 Big Ten) got off to a slow, sloppy start. For the entire first half, it didn’t register a single shot on goal. In the second quarter, the Terps had more success with getting the ball into American territory, but they never seemed to manage to make the much-needed precise pass in the circle.
On the other side of the field, American (10-5, 5-0 Patriot League) found itself with a couple of scoring chances in the first quarter, attempting three shots and one on goal.
Within the first few minutes of the game, American sophomore forward Hannah Moser had a breakaway, but Maryland senior keeper Noelle Frost came out of goal to shut down the scoring chance for her only save of the day.
The Terps’ defense seemed to buckle down and keep the ball from their cage in the second period. Despite the much improved defense, the offense still had trouble firing on all cylinders.
In a couple of games this season, Maryland has been great at making halftime adjustments and turning things around in the second half. It seemed like this was going to be the case once again.
“I’m not surprised by the quality of this game,” Meharg said. “Their changeups in how they play defense in the front third and then fell away to the fifty, I mean the nice thing with the game is that it prepared us in so many ways for postseason.”
The Terps came out in the second half and had a few quick counterattack chances. However, it looked a lot like the first half as Maryland failed to make the crucial passes near the circle to convert any opportunities into goals.
In the beginning of the fourth quarter around the 46-minute mark, sophomore forward Bibi Donraadt recorded the first shot on goal, but it was saved by freshman keeper Fiona Minter. Less than a minute later, the Terps drew the first penalty corner of the game. However, it was more of the same for Maryland, as the Terps failed to convert.
But Lepage came up clutch right when the Terps needed it to score the go-ahead goal. And the team managed to play solid defense for the remaining five minutes of the game to cling onto a 1-0 victory over the Eagles.
“This is a game that we’ll be able to look at the video and say, ‘wow we learned a lot from it,’” Meharg said. “So I couldn’t be more proud of the staff and team for getting this outcome and ending our regular season on such a positive note.”
Three things to know
1. The Terps started out slow against a lesser opponent once again. Maryland head coach Missy Meharg has been preaching that she wants her team to come out of the gates and dominant early. Meharg’s team was unable to accomplish that in today’s matchup against American and the game seemed reminiscent of the Terps second-half comeback victory over then-No. 21 Ohio State, when Maryland was also held scoreless in the first half.
2. Despite not the greatest of showings, Maryland has a long time until tournament play. With the regular season coming to a close, the Terps would’ve liked to play a clean, dominant game against an unranked American team. However, it was quite the opposite for the Terps. Even though it wasn’t the result that the team was looking for, Maryland will have a lot of time to regroup and get ready for the Big Ten Tournament. Since the Terps clinched the No. 1 seed in the tournament, their first game won’t be until Nov. 8.
3. It took a long time to get on the board, but Maryland still managed to pull it out. In Tuesday’s matchup, it took the Terps 55 minutes to score, which was the longest they’ve been held scoreless in a victory. In the past 10 matchups between these two teams, Maryland has always won by at least two goals, while outscoring the Eagles 25-7. Today, the Terps struggled on offense, tying their season-low shots on goal with just four.