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No. 8 Maryland field hockey vs. Michigan State preview

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Maryland has just three games left before the Big Ten Tournament.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

No. 8 Maryland field hockey hits the road for a Friday afternoon matchup with its Big Ten foe the Michigan State Spartans at Ralph Young Field in East Lansing, Michigan.

In Maryland’s victory on Sunday, head coach Missy Meharg won her 600th game, to add to a career drowning in accomplishments. It was a vivacious and celebratory crowd at the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex in College Park to see Maryland earn a pivotal 3-2 victory over a ranked opponent in No. 17 UConn.

Michigan State is coming off of a crushing 6-2 road defeat to No. 6 Northwestern.

Maryland has a 12-0 record versus Michigan State, with the Terps winning nine consecutive matchups since joining the Big Ten in 2014. The Terps will look to use the momentum of Sunday’s victory to propel them to pick up a much-needed conference victory on the road.

Maryland defeated the Spartans in their only matchup last season, in a shutout 2-0 victory on Feb. 26 in Virginia Beach.

The game is set to start at 3 p.m. and will stream on Big Ten Plus.

Now let’s look at the Michigan State Spartans.

Michigan State Spartans (7-5, 0-5 Big Ten)

2020 record: 2-14 (1-7, Big Ten)

The Michigan State Spartans are led by head coach Helen Knull, who’s returning for her 11th season at the helm. Knull has earned an 83-124 record during her time in East Lansing. She led Michigan State to the Big Ten tournament championship and an appearance in the Elite Eight in 2013. She was also named the West Region Coach of the Year in 2013.

The former two-time All-American at Kent State has been a part of the Michigan State coaching staff since 2010 and has been instrumental in the Spartans' performance on the defensive end.

In 2019, Knull took on eight ranked opponents, with an impressive five opponents within the top-10. The defensive-minded coach will look to bring the glory days back to the campus of Michigan State.

Players to know

Merel Hanssen, junior midfielder, No. 18 — The Netherlands native leads the Spartans in goals on the season, recording five thus far in her junior campaign. Hanssen is the heart of the Michigan State offensive attack, evidenced by her 33 shots this season. The athletic junior has dished out five assists this season to showcase her dynamic playmaking skills.

Ellie Rutherford, freshman midfielder, No. 15 — The talented freshman has made a great impact in her first season for the Spartans, tied for second in goals, with four so far in her promising career. Rutherford has contributed two assists to go along with an impressive 15 shots on goals this season. She has also brought the pressure to the cage, registering 22 shots for the Spartans.

Cara Bonshak, senior midfielder, No. 21— The senior has been a leader for the Spartans during her time on campus in East Lansing. The 2020-21 captain has recorded four goals for Michigan State this season to go along with two assists. The Whitehall, Pennsylvania, native has chipped in 11 shots, while also registering 11 shots on goal this season.

Strength

Shots. Michigan State has been efficient with generating shots on goal this season, hitting 110 shots on goal in 159 attempts in a dozen games. That 69.2% clip is a lofty number for a team that ranks sixth in the Big Ten in shots on the season. The Spartans are an aggressive team that looks to pressure their opponents’ cage early and often, shown their 13.3 shots per game average.

Weakness

Penalty corners and goals. The Spartans have been struggling all season to generate favorable opportunities on offense by earning penalty corners. Michigan State’s opponents are drawing more penalty corners. This season, its opponents have drawn 95 corners while the Spartans have drawn 79. Michigan State is only putting up 2.92 goals a game this season, in a schedule that features teams with offensive powerhouses.

Three things to watch

1. Can Maryland pick up a conference victory on the road? Maryland will look to pick up its second road victory within the Big Ten this season versus Michigan State. The Terps dominated Indiana on Sept. 24 with an 8-2 victory over the Hoosiers. Maryland’s offensive attack can take over the game at any point and it will look to use complementary field hockey to propel them to a late-season victory.

2. How will the Terps build on their momentum after an exhilarating victory on Sunday? On Sunday, Meharg earned victory No. 600 to continue a career that is loaded with success. The Terps got off to a hot start versus No. 17 UConn, jumping to a 3-0 lead until the fourth quarter. Uncharacteristically, Maryland let its foot off the gas in the fourth quarter, allowing UConn to score two goals within three minutes, however, the Terps still managed the win. Maryland will look to remain locked in for all four quarters to earn a much-needed victory to help them for the rest of the season and beyond.

3. Will Maryland start off its final road stretch off with a victory? The Terps will look to keep their eyes focused on their matchup with Michigan State, before setting its eyes to a big-time matchup up ahead. Maryland will remain in the Midwest for the weekend, as it will take on the No. 2 Michigan Wolverines on Sunday for yet another Big Ten showdown. Maryland will conclude its season with a home matchup with the Ohio State Buckeyes on Oct. 29.