No. 3 seed-Maryland field hockey will clash with No. 2-seed Northwestern in the 2022 NCAA Final Four today at 3 p.m on ESPN+. The game will be played at George J. Sherman Family Sports Complex in Storrs, Connecticut.
Maryland (19-3) is coming off an exhilarating 3-2 shootout victory over Syracuse in the Elite Eight. With their backs against the wall, the Terps made two outstanding plays to advance to the next round. Star sophomore Hope Rose scored a goal, leaving the Terps one defensive stop away from another late-game triumph. Then, sophomore Paige Kieft’s game-winning defensive stop secured a perfect season at the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex in College Park.
Northwestern (19-4), the defending national champion, defeated Iowa, 4-3, in another riveting shootout. Iowa took a one-score lead after the first two rounds of the shootout, then Northwestern scored four unanswered goals on penalty strokes to put them on the brink of jubilation. Northwestern junior goalkeeper Annabel Skubisz’s outstanding lateral agility allowed her to thwart Iowa’s shot away from the cage and secure the win.
The Wildcats are making their second consecutive appearance in the Final Four for the first time in program history. Maryland will be appearing in their 20th Final Four under legendary head coach Missy Meharg.
Maryland leads the all-time series with a 19-12 record, with the programs splitting this season’s meetings.
This game is shaping up to be a battle of two of the NCAA’s heavyweights, with both programs possessing talented rosters and superior coaching.
Now, let’s look at the Northwestern Wildcats.
Northwestern Wildcats (19-4, 5-3 Big Ten)
Tracey Fuchs is in her 14th season leading the Northwestern field hockey program. She has amassed a 195-98 record in her tenure roaming the sidelines. In 2021, she guided the program to its first national championship with a 2-0 defeat of Liberty.
Fuchs has been a staple of success for Northwestern, as it has finished within the top four in 10 of the 12 past seasons.
During the 2011 season, Fuchs and company faced a gauntlet of ranked opponents. Northwestern dominated the competition with victories over No. 7 New Hampshire, No. 8 American, No. 11 California and No. 18 Virginia.
The player-turned-coach is lauded for her in-game adjustments, evidenced by her four overtime victories during her first season in 2009. The achievement marked the first team in school history to win at least four overtime games in one season.
With Fuchs leading the way with her signature visor, Northwestern is a legitimate threat to win back-to-back titles this season.
Players to know
Bente Baekers, graduate forward, No. 3 — The All-Big Ten first team member is the key source of Northwestern’s electric offense. Baekers is tied for the lead in the conference with 23 goals and her 125 shots also lead the Big Ten. In Northwestern’s recent triumph over Iowa, Baekers’ two goals were pivotal in the outcome of the game. Her second goal was part of four unanswered goals in the shootout period. In Maryland and Northwestern’s first meeting on Oct. 2, she recorded the opening goal of the contest. It will be worth monitoring her whereabouts, as she is capable of maneuvering her way into the circle for scoring opportunities.
Peyton Halsey, senior midfielder, No. 6 — In Northwestern’s first-round 3-2 shootout victory over Miami (Ohio), Halsey made plays throughout the contest. Halsey registered the opening goal on a penalty stroke, which made her five-for-six in that category on the season. Her 13 goals and 56 shots are second on the team. She is fourth in the Big Ten with 13 goals. In the Wildcats’ first meeting with Maryland on Nov. 4, she recorded the game-winning goal on a penalty stroke. When the game is on the line, Halsey is one of Northwestern’s reliable contributors.
Ana Medina Garcia, senior midfielder, No. 20 — Medina-Garcia has registered six goals in her senior campaign. She sent Northwestern into a frenzy following her game-winning goal in overtime over Iowa in the Elite Eight. The five-foot-six midfielder is effective at penetrating gaps and creating scoring opportunities for her teammates. In Northwestern’s 2-1 victory over then-No. 21 Ohio State, Medina-Garcia scored the go-ahead goal. The Spain native is a key piece of a Northwestern team looking to defend its championship crown.
Shots. Northwestern is third in the Big Ten with 19 shots recorded per game. Baekers’ conference-leading 125 shots are a major contribution to a Wildcats team looking to apply pressure on opponents’ cages. Excluding Baekers, Northwestern has nine players that have recorded at least 10 shots this season. From the opening to the final whistle, the Wildcats are relentless at trying to score in bunches. The Terps will hope to limit their shots to zero goals in their quest to end the defending national champions’ season.
Goals. Despite an impressive record, Northwestern is middle of the pack in the Big Ten with 2.6 goals recorded per game. In a conference where offense isn’t hard to find, the Wildcats have yet to score more than six goals in a season. Northwestern only has two players on its roster with at least 10 goals this season: Baekers (23) and Halsey (13). If it can get additional contributions from the roster, they could become tough to contend with.
Three things to watch
1. Can Maryland advance to its first national championship game since 2018? The Terps are making their second consecutive trip to the Final Four this season. Last season, Maryland squared off with Liberty with a chance to advance to the national championship game. In a highly entertaining contest between two elite programs, Liberty defeated Maryland, 3-2, in double overtime to end the Terps’ season in heartbreaking fashion.
Graduate defender Riley Donnelly provided Maryland’s revenge in this year’s tournament, cashing in on a penalty stroke to defeat the Flames in the first round. The Terps are hoping to bring back their first national title since 2018.
2. Will the Terps avenge their Big Ten Tournament loss to win the season series over Northwestern? Maryland and Northwestern are two of three teams (Penn State) from the Big Ten competing for the national title this weekend. This pair of conference foes have played twice this season, with both teams splitting the matchup. On Oct. 2, Maryland graduate midfielder Danielle Van Rootselaar scored the game-winning goal in overtime. Once both programs won their first-round matchups in the Big Ten Tournament, a second meeting in the conference semifinals was set and Northwestern escaped with a 2-1 victory. The Wildcats would go on to lose to Michigan in the next round.
3. How will the Terps’ defense respond following an emotional victory? Maryland trailed Syracuse in the Elite Eight for three full quarters before coming alive in the final period. The Terps’ resolve on defense was instrumental in their victory and their composure will be tested Friday afternoon. Maryland’s defense will be worth watching with a chance to advance to the national championship on the line.