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Big Ten Tournament first round preview: Maryland field hockey vs. Iowa

The No. 3-seed Terps begin their postseason against No. 6-seed Iowa.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

On the heels of a 5-1 loss to No. 1 Northwestern in its final regular season game, No. 8-ranked Maryland field hockey now turns its attention to playing No. 7-ranked Iowa in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.

Maryland (14-4), the No. 3 seed in the tournament, will take on No. 6-seed Iowa at 5 p.m. this Thursday, Nov. 2, on Big Ten Plus. The Big Ten Tournament is being hosted by Michigan this season.

What happened last time

Less than two weeks ago, then-No. 9 Maryland protected its home field in a 4-1 upset win over then-No. 5 Iowa. The statement victory, which was Maryland’s sixth straight at the time, saw Sammy Popper and Hannah Boss each score first-quarter goals to give the Terps an early lead. Boss’ goal was her first of two, her only multi-goal game this season.

In the third quarter, the Terps extended their lead to three as Nathalie Fiechter scored her lone goal of the season. After, Iowa netted its only score on the day when Annika Herbine beat Maryland freshman goalkeeper Alyssa Klebasko, who finished the game with four saves.

Maryland head coach Missy Meharg believes the Terps can use the win to their advantage Thursday against the Hawkeyes.

“It was one of our best matches,” Meharg said of the first game against Iowa. “... we know we play very well with them, but it’ll all be on us [on Thursday].”

What’s happened since

Iowa Hawkeyes (13-4, 4-4 Big Ten)

Following the lopsided loss at Maryland, Iowa has gone 1-1 against two ranked conference opponents.

The Hawkeyes were upset again in a 2-1 loss to then-No. 16 Penn State on the same weekend they fell to the Terps. An Alex Wesneski opening-quarter goal put Iowa in good position while on the road, but two unanswered goals from reigning Big Ten Player of the Year Sophia Gladieux paced the Nittany Lions’ comeback.

Five days later, Iowa flipped a switch, crushing No. 3 Rutgers, 7-2. On its senior day, Iowa benefited from six different Hawkeyes registering a goal, especially down the stretch. Iowa poured on three goals in each of the final two quarters to hand Rutgers its second Big Ten loss this season. Iowa freshman Dionne van Aalsum, who leads the Big Ten with 27 goals this season, scored twice in the win and earned Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors for the performance.

Maryland Terrapins (14-4, 6-2 Big Ten)

Like Iowa, the Terps also split their final two games. Maryland beat Indiana, 2-1, on its senior day, with goals from Margot Lawn and Maci Bradford.

The win gave Maryland seven straight victories coming into its biggest game of the season against Northwestern this past Thursday, but the Terps came out flat in a 5-1 loss. Northwestern paced the game throughout, claiming a three-goal lead minutes into the second quarter. Klebasko, with six saves and a career-high four goals allowed, was pulled in the second half.

“That was a hard game [for her] to play when her team’s not doing well in front,” senior captain Rayne Wright said of Klebasko. “... She plays her best when she has support, and she didn’t [against Northwestern]. So this week … we’ve been looking at what we can do better so it’s an easier day for her.”

Three things to watch

1. How does Klebasko bounce back? Maryland’s loss to Northwestern blemished what’s been a tremendous freshman campaign for Klebasko. The four goals Klebasko conceded were more than she had allowed in Maryland’s previous four games combined, three of which came against ranked opponents.

2. A quick turnaround. Maryland’s matchup against Iowa comes just 13 days after its last match against the Hawkeyes. The last time the Terps rematched an opponent in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament this quickly — excluding the COVID-altered 2020 season — was 2016, when they faced Rutgers twice in five days.

3. Can Iowa build off its latest win? Iowa’s win over the Scarlet Knights was the its biggest conference win of the season and could provide the team some serious tournament momentum.