Through its run in the Big Ten tournament last week, Maryland field hockey struggled to do two things: score early and draw penalty corners.
Hosting Old Dominion in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, No. 4-seed Maryland utilized graduate forward Sammy Popper to address both issues. Popper’s two first-half goals came off penalty corners, which propelled the Terps to a 3-0 win over Old Dominion Friday.
“[Penalty corners] were something we focused a lot on going into the game,” Popper said. “Sometimes games are decided by corners … and we did great with our pressure into the circle with our attack being very connected.”
Toward the end of the first quarter, Popper energized the Terps by netting her first goal. Receiving an insert from Margot Lawn on Maryland’s second corner, Popper stuttered in the shooting circle, firing a top-left corner shot past Old Dominion goalkeeper Suus Broers for her first career NCAA Tournament goal.
Old Dominion matched Maryland’s attack in the opening 15 minutes, but freshman goalkeeper Alyssa Klebasko made two of her six saves in the first quarter.
“People listen to her,” Maryland head coach Missy Meharg said of Klebasko. “She talks very early and gives direction, being one of those goalkeepers that wants to minimize the shots she has to take.”
The Terps doubled their lead on a play designed nearly identical to the match’s opening goal. Zipping a drive quickly after receiving Lawn’s insert, Popper dribbled a low, left-post shot past Broers. The score marked Popper’s first multi-goal game since October 2021.
Popper has 10 goals this season, while Lawn added her 12th assist, the most by a Terp this season and third-highest mark in the Big Ten.
The third quarter saw the Monarchs’ attack add intensity, but Klebasko and the Maryland defense responded again. Old Dominion poured on five shots in the quarter, three of which Klebasko saved to preserve the shutout.
Similar to the first half, Maryland’s offense built off the backline’s momentum to extend its lead. In the third quarter’s final moments, Lawn earned her fourth point of the match when she took a feed from Anna Castaldo and found the bottom right corner on a cross-field shot.
“Margot’s been an incredible player,” Meharg said. “Part of our shaping ... has been her generating to the next level as a goal scorer and finisher, so she’s just been outrageous.”
Advancing to the quarterfinals, Maryland will host the winner of Virginia and St. Joseph’s on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
Three things to know
1. Klebasko performs again. Klebasko notched her fifth shutout of the season, the most by a Terp freshman goalkeeper since Maryland joined the Big Ten in 2014.
2. Back to scoring early. Popper’s first goal 10 minutes into the match was Maryland’s first opening quarter goal in its last five games, and it helped the Terps move to 15-2 this season when scoring first. Popper’s second quarter goal gave Maryland its first multi-goal first-half lead in the Terps’ last seven games.
3. Moving on in the NCAA Tournament. By defeating Old Dominion, Maryland is now 69-26 all-time in the NCAA Tournament and advances to the quarterfinals for the seventh time in the last eight years. The lone exception came during the 2021 spring season.