No. 3 Maryland field hockey concludes its two-game homestand with a Sunday afternoon matchup with Michigan State. The game starts at 1 p.m. and can be streamed on Big Ten Plus.
Maryland (8-1) is coming off an exhilarating 1-0 overtime victory over No. 8 Michigan. The Terps’ defense exhibited outstanding hustle and tenacity, as it recorded its second shutout of the season. The team’s defense has been outstanding all season and will be paramount to its national championship aspirations.
Michigan State (4-3) suffered a 4-0 loss to No. 6 Penn State Friday, only recording six shots in the entire contest. The Spartans have struggled to produce victories after starting the season with a 3-0 record.
The Terps lead the all-time series with a perfect 14-0 record. Last season, Maryland handily defeated Michigan State by a score of 4-0 in East Lansing, Michigan.
Maryland will look to secure its third conference victory of the season, while Michigan State will be seeking its first Big Ten victory since the spring 2021 season.
Now, let’s look at the Michigan State Spartans.
Michigan State Spartans (4-3)
2021 record: 7-8 (0-8 Big Ten)
Michigan State is led by head coach Helen Knull, who’s returning for her 12th season guiding the program. Knull has achieved success in her tenure leading the Spartans. She has recorded a 157-150 record and has been a mainstay in the program.
Knull recorded her best season to date in 2013 with a 14-10 record that resulted in a Big Ten Tournament championship and an Elite Eight appearance. She became the third coach in Michigan State’s history to receive NFHCA West Region Coach of the Year honors.
The Spartans haven’t enjoyed success lately, but they remain a tough out in the Big Ten. She will look to lead Michigan State back to contention in the conference for the first time in over a decade.
Prior to being named the head coach in 2010, she served as an assistant for six seasons and earned a 74-34 record. During the 2009 season, the Spartans secured Big Ten regular season and tournament titles. Michigan State achieved history that season by becoming the second school in the Big Ten to go undefeated in regular season and conference play.
Players to know
Ellie Rutherford, sophomore midfielder, No. 15 — Rutherford, last season’s Rookie of the Year for the Spartans, is tied for the most goals on the team with three. She recorded a goal in Michigan State’s 5-2 victory over UC-Davis on Sept. 2 to bring the team’s record to 3-0. She has recorded 13 shots thus far in her sophomore campaign. The aggressive midfielder has a knack for attacking opposing defenses to find scoring opportunities. Rutherford is a key piece of a young nucleus for the Spartans that hopes to find success going forward.
Lulu Fulton, junior forward, No. 7 — The New Zealand native is eighth in the Big Ten with 17 shots on the season while contributing three goals to a promising offensive attack. In Michigan State’s 3-1 victory over Bellarmine, Fulton scored the go-ahead goal to swing the momentum toward her sideline. She is an aggressive forward looking to capitalize on the defense’s mistakes with agility and quickness.
Emma O’Neill, junior midfielder, No. 10 — O’Neill has recorded three goals this season to add to Michigan State’s attack. The junior midfielder is relentless when attacking the cage, as she showed the ability to open driving lanes for her teammates. She has also chipped in four shots to go along with an impressive 75% shot on goal percentage. The Spartans offense is loaded with depth and O’Neill’s skillset is a welcomed addition to a struggling team.
Shots. Michigan State ranks fourth in the Big Ten with 15.4 shots per contest. Its offense features six players in double figures in shots on the season. The Spartans look to fire shots at the cage early and often, with different athletes attacking from different angles. Although they only average 2.71 goals per game, they are attempting a healthy number of shots at the cage. They will look to make opposing goalies sweat with persistent pressure.
Goals. The Spartans average 2.7 goals per contest, placing them fifth in the conference. Big Ten field hockey features several offensive juggernauts, and increasing that total would bode well for the Spartans’ improvement in this area. For a team loaded with depth, fixing this area could bode well for Michigan State’s chances of getting its first conference victory in nearly two years.
Three things to watch
1. How will Maryland respond after a home overtime victory on Sept. 23? The Terps welcomed No. 8 Michigan to College Park for a clash between two elite teams in the Big Ten. Four quarters was not enough to determine an outcome, but an overtime goal by Maryland graduate midfielder Leah Crouse sent the Terps storming onto the field to celebrate a 1-0 victory. Maryland will return to its home turf Sunday with a chance to pick up its second conference victory in three days.
2. Will Maryland’s defense continue to lead it to success? Maryland’s defense pitched its second shutout of the season in a 1-0 overtime victory over Michigan. The Terps did not relinquish a single penalty corner and showed why have one of the best defensive units in the country. With an 8-1 record heading into a crucial stretch of the season, Maryland’s defense could be a factor in its postseason fate.
3. Can Maryland’s offense convert its shots into more goals on the scoreboard? In their previous game versus Michigan, the Terps did not register a single goal until the overtime period. Maryland recorded 12 shots in the second half but was unable to cash in until the overtime period. The Terps are loaded with talent on every level and are capable of scoring in bunches. If it can find an answer to its scoring struggles, Maryland could be a contender to win the Big Ten.