With about five minutes until halftime in No. 2-seed Maryland field hockey’s Big Ten Tournament semifinal matchup against No. 3-seed Northwestern, the Wildcats were assessed a penalty stroke following a Maryland defensive miscue on a penalty corner.
Northwestern senior midfielder Peyton Halsey didn’t hesitate, as she sent a shot into the cage to give Northwestern a 2-0 lead. In a defensive battle on Friday afternoon in Columbus, Ohio, the Terps never established an offensive rhythm, falling to Northwestern, 2-1, and ending its hopes of a Big Ten championship.
“We had a slow start and they had a dominant one. They’re reigning champions for a reason,” Maryland head coach Missy Meharg said. “We weren’t moving off ball and we said the other day [that] the team who passes the ball before dribbling is probably going be the team that wins and I thought Northwestern was better at that than we were.”
Maryland now sets its eyes on the bigger prize, as it will look to make another NCAA Tournament run starting next week. The seeding for the tournament will be announced Sunday.
The game between a pair of formidable Big Ten foes started with each team racing the length of the field, as they looked to find a defensive weakness to exploit.
Just over four minutes into the opening quarter, Northwestern was assessed its second consecutive penalty corner with a chance to get on the board first. Northwestern senior midfielder Alia Marshall dribbled around Maryland junior defender Rayne Wright before sending a swift shot into the cage for the opening goal of the contest. Marshall’s goal gave Northwestern an early 1-0 advantage.
Maryland attempted to get back in the game, as it was determined to get into the circle for scoring opportunities. Minutes after Marshall’s goal, the Terps received their first penalty corner of the contest. Maryland graduate defender Riley Donnelly sent a winding shot towards the cage, but Northwestern goalkeeper Annabel Skubisz deflected the fast shot from the cage.
Halsey’s goal doubled the Wildcats’ lead late in the half, making a Maryland comeback a far steeper challenge.
The Terps’ second half began similar to the first, as Maryland struggled to generate enough offense to close the scoring margin.
That changed toward the end of the third quarter, though, as Maryland sophomore forward Hope Rose forced the third penalty corner of the game for the Terps. Rose sent a missile past the outstretched hands of Skubisz for Maryland’s first goal of the game, trimming the deficit to 2-1.
Unfortunately for head coach Missy Meharg’s squad, the Terps were unable to break through again and ultimately saw their Big Ten Tournament run end at the hands of the reigning national champions, who will face Michigan for the conference title Sunday.
“Define what you just felt when you left that field. How do you play the game when you play your best hockey,” Meharg said. “You play it when you pass and put pressure on the ball.”
Three things to know
1. Another slow start spelled doom for Maryland. In its opening road matchup with Ohio State, Maryland was able to overcome a slow first quarter en route to a 5-2 victory. The Terps’ depth and offensive explosiveness scored twice in the second quarter and never looked back. In its semifinal loss to Northwestern, Maryland once again got out a slow start. The Terps didn’t score until the third frame and weren’t able to make up the deficit.
2. The Terps’ offense was outplayed. Northwestern outshot Maryland by seven and had five more penalty corners Friday. For a Terps team used to dominating on the offensive end, it was an uncharacteristic performance that was ultimately the difference. Despite a decent job of damage control by the defense, the Wildcats outperformed the Terps in the most important category: goals.
3. What’s next for Maryland? Maryland will walk away without any Big Ten hardware, losing in the conference tournament once again. Now, the Terps will turn their attention to the NCAA Tournament, where they will find out their seed on Sunday. There is still hope to lift a trophy as Maryland has the talent to win a national championship. Despite last year’s loss in the Big Ten Tournament, Maryland still made a run to the Final Four.