2021 was a season for the books for the Maryland Terrapins field hockey program.
On May 27, Prince George’s County removed all capacity and distancing restrictions for indoor and outdoor sporting events. The Terps were ecstatic to welcome fans back to ‘The Plex,’ the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex in College Park.
Maryland entered the season with a No. 9 national ranking, loaded with a roster full of upperclassman experience and talented underclassmen. Head coach Missy Meharg brought in a graduate transfer from Princeton, midfielder Julianna Tornetta to a Maryland team with national championship aspirations. Tornetta was a key component to the offense.
Noelle Frost is one of the most talented goalies in the Big Ten and the nation. She has a strong ability to use lateral movement to close out scoring lanes and communicates defensive commands to her teammates to execute the game plan.
Meharg’s group had a daunting schedule, with 13 matchups against teams ranked within the top-25.
The Terps welcomed fans back to ‘The Plex’ in exciting fashion with a 4-3 double-overtime victory on Aug. 29 over then-No. 20 Saint Joseph’s. Leading scorer and Maryland forward Bibi Donraadt gave the Terps their 25th consecutive season-opening victory, with a goal just 51 seconds into overtime.
“To have fans there is an incredible feeling. They are like our 12th man,” junior forward Margot Lawn said. “It was an incredible opportunity to play in front of them and there’s nothing like Maryland fans.”
Following its first victory of the 2021 season, Maryland traveled to Durham, North Carolina on the campus of Duke University for the sixth annual Big Ten/ACC Cup.
In the opening matchup versus the ACC’s then-No. 7 Boston College on Sept. 3, Maryland suffered its first loss of the season in a narrow 3-2 defeat. The Terps struggled to find the equalizer in the second half, as they were held scoreless for the final 30 minutes.
Maryland would conclude the Big Ten/ACC Cup on Sept. 5 with a dominating 4-0 victory over No. 12 Duke. The victory over Duke would mark the game in which the highly touted freshman forward, Hope Rose, would score her first of 10 goals she ultimately tallied over the course of the season.
The Terps then went on to earn two consecutive victories in the Terrapin Invitational, by defeating then-No. 21 UMass and California. Maryland outscored UMass and California, with a 5-0 margin.
The Terps dropped their first Big Ten showdown of the season, with a 3-2 overtime loss to No. 8 Penn State on Sept. 18.
On Sept. 21, Tornetta and the Terps faced off with her former team, the then-No. 17 Princeton Tigers at the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex. Maryland defeated Princeton 4-3 and had four different Terps that scored a goal in the victory. Sophomore defender Maura Verleg, captain graduate midfielder Brooke DeBerdine, Donraadt and junior midfielder Emma DeBerdine registered a goal in the victory.
Maryland then exploded offensively in their 8-2 dominating victory in a Sept. 24 road contest with Indiana. Seven different Terps scored a goal in this contest, exhibiting their depth. Maryland’s talent at pressuring its opponent’s cage and the strength in numbers mantra was evident in the matchup.
Following another shutout win, this time against American, the Terps then faced a two-game stretch that was a litmus test for the trajectory of their championship aspirations.
Maryland welcomed the newly crowned NCAA Champion Northwestern Wildcats to College Park for a Big Ten showdown between two of the premier teams in the country. The Terps would fall to the then-No. 4 Wildcats, after relinquishing three goals, one in each quarter starting in the second.
On Oct. 3, then-No. 1 Iowa brought its unblemished record to College Park. The game started with a defensive showdown between two well-coached programs until Iowa held on for the 2-1 victory.
Meharg’s talented team made the trip down 495 to Charlottesville, Virginia with a matchup with No. 12 Virginia. The Terps and Cavaliers battled the entire game and needed an overtime period to determine a winner. Rose cranked in one of her four game-winning goals in the overtime period to give Maryland the 2-1 victory over Virginia.
The Terps then recorded a second consecutive win by defeating James Madison at home, 3-0.
After suffering a close 1-0 defeat to the 2021 Big Ten tournament champion then-No. 3 Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Oct. 5, Maryland locked in and caught fire to catapult them for the rest of the season.
The Terps would go on a four-game winning streak to end the regular season, with four victories over then-No. 17 UConn, Michigan State, then-No. 2 Michigan and then-No. 24 Ohio State when the Terps honored their seniors. Maryland dominated its opponents in those last four games recording a wide scoring margin of 15-3.
Maryland became the first team to defeat the Michigan Wolverines at Phyllis Ocker Field after Donraadt finished off a goal from a dazzling assist by Tornetta.
The Big Ten tournament would open with a rematch of an early-season matchup between the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Maryland Terrapins. Maryland and Penn State went back and forth for the first 30 minutes that ended with a 2-2 tie going into the half. Penn State earned the game-clinching goal in the final frame to knock the Terps out of the tournament.
The NCAA Tournament opened with Maryland hosting the first and second round at the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex in College Park.
Maryland defeated then-No. 13 Virginia in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, with a 2-1 victory, after surviving a late-game scare in which the Cavaliers scored with less than three minutes remaining.
The Terps advanced to the second round for a matchup with the then-No. 10 Syracuse Orange searching for a spot in the Final Four. In the fourth quarter, Donraadt cashed in on a dynamic pass from Emma DeBerdine to send Maryland to the Final Four in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
In the Final Four, Maryland took on the then-No. 9 Liberty Flames. Liberty earned its first Final Four appearance in school history. Maryland and Liberty played a Final Four thriller, with the game needing two overtime periods to determine who advanced to the National Championship.
The Terps suffered a heartbreaking loss in the second overtime after Maryland was out of position and could not stop Liberty forward Charlotte Vaanhold from swishing a goal into the cage to end Maryland’s season.
“I thought we had a great season and grew so much. We had a few rough losses but to be able to make it to the final four was the best experience,” junior midfielder Belle Bressler said. “Hopefully we can keep it going again next season.”
Maryland’s season came to an end after making great strides and persevering through adversity. The future is bright for Meharg’s program, as they look to build on what was a successful season for the Terps.
With the experience of a Final Four run, it is safe to assume that Maryland will build off this momentum to remain in the national championship picture next season and beyond.