In the early goings of Friday’s Big Ten Tournament semifinal, No. 2-seed Rutgers field hockey stifled No. 3-seed Maryland with a star-studded defense.
Conference Player of the Year Iris Langejans and Defensive Player of the Year Puck Winter anchor the Scarlet Knights’ unit. But neither were able to stop Maci Bradford’s game-winning goal late in the fourth quarter, or the frenzy that ensued on the Terps’ bench.
Bradford’s shot served as the exclamation mark in a 2-1 win for Maryland (16-4) over Rutgers (16-3), a game in which the Terps were powered by two late unanswered goals.
Maryland took its only lead of the game on a clutch effort by two of its most impactful freshmen. Off a penalty corner, Josie Hollamon leveled a shot in the direction of Rutgers junior goalkeeper Sophia Howard. Howard thwarted it away, leaving the rebound right at the feet of Bradford, who persisted with three shots — the third of which dribbled past Howard by the bottom-right post.
“We’ve always worked on getting in the right position for corner rebounds,” Bradford explained. “I knew it was tied one to one and that we had to finish … and I just put it in.”
The game-winner was set up after Margot Lawn tied the match at one with an unbelievable effort. Scoring her eighth goal on the season, Lawn sprinted down the right wing, and sophomore Hannah Boss zipped her a pass. Lawn, realizing the feed was too far in front of her, fully extended her stick and slid toward the ball before beating Howard with a high shot.
Maryland played from behind after Rutgers utilized its strong defense to net the game’s first score more than halfway into the third quarter. Bradford dribbled toward midfield before Langejans swooped away possession. The redshirt senior dribbled a pass to junior Lucy Bunnatyne, who sliced to her left while fitting a backhanded shot inside the right post. The high-arching shot was the first goal of the season for Bunnatyne.
“We needed to just believe … and stick to our structure,” Bradford said of coming back after the Rutgers goal. “We did that with high intensity, knowing that we could come back and play good hockey.”
Rutgers would have doubled its lead early in the fourth quarter if it wasn’t for Maryland’s Ericka Morris-Adams. Working on Terps goalie Alyssa Klebasko, Rutgers’ Marique Dieudonne floated a shot over the freshman, who stood grounded by the left post. But the graduate forward’s shot was knocked away by Morris-Adams, as the sophomore used an over-the-head deflection to whack the would-be goal away and record her first defensive save this season.
“Big players make big plays,” Maryland head coach Missy Meharg said. “And when the game is on the line, they find the pressure to be such a privilege … they love that [and] are used to that.”
After that, Lawn equalized and Bradford later sealed a dramatic Maryland victory.
“It was a tale of two games,” Meharg said. “In the first half we were very disorganized and didn’t have it on our front foot … but in the third and fourth quarter I thought … we really had the energy in our favor.”
In the tournament championship game, Maryland will play top-seeded Northwestern on Sunday at noon. The Wildcats, holding a perfect 9-0 record in conference play, used three third-quarter goals to power themselves past Ohio State, 3-1, in their semifinal matchup.
Three things to know
1. Back to the title game. Maryland will play Northwestern in its fifth Big Ten title game since joining the conference in 2014. The Terps, despite missing the championship game the last five years, are seeking their fourth tournament title.
2. Maryland used a fourth-quarter comeback to secure the win. Down 1-0 entering the final 15 minutes, Lawn and Bradford found the back of the net to complete Maryland’s stunning comeback. It was the first time the Terps scored multiple goals in the fourth quarter against a conference opponent this season.
3. A rare slow start. Friday’s win marked just the second time this season that Maryland allowed a conference opponent to score first.