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Big Ten championship game preview: Maryland field hockey vs. Northwestern

The Terps seek their third Big Ten Tournament title.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

After a 2-1 win on Friday over No. 2-seed Rutgers, No. 3-seed Maryland field hockey will take on top-seeded Northwestern in the Big Ten Tournament championship game Sunday.

Maryland, looking for its third-ever Big Ten tournament title, will take on Northwestern at noon with the game available for streaming on Big Ten Network.

What happened last time

The teams met in the regular season finale 10 days ago, and Northwestern cruised to a lopsided 5-1 victory over Maryland. The loss ended a seven-game winning streak for the Terps.

“We’re going to stick to Maryland field hockey to see what we can fix from the last time we played them,” Maryland freshman Maci Bradford said. “We know they’re a good team, but we’re just as good or even better.”

How they got here

Northwestern Wildcats (17-1, 9-0 Big Ten)

After losing its season opener to Louisville, Northwestern has rattled off 17 straight wins, finishing the regular season undefeated in conference play for the first time in program history.

On Friday, after earning a bye, the top-seeded Wildcats claimed a 3-1 win over Ohio State to advance to the championship game. Third-quarter goals from Ilse Tromp, Lauren Wadas and Peyton Halsy propelled the Wildcats to victory.

This week, eight Wildcats were recognized with 2023 Big Ten honors, including five All-Big Ten first team selections. As well, Anabel Skubisz was named Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year and Tracey Fuchs won Big Ten Coach of the Year.

Maryland Terrapins (16-4, 7-2 Big Ten)

After the crushing loss to Northwestern, Maryland has regained steam with a 2-0 opening round win over Iowa and a 2-1 semifinal victory over Rutgers on Friday.

The Terps overcame a one-goal deficit against Rutgers by scoring two unanswered goals in the final 15 minutes. Margot Lawn tied the game with a sliding effort for her eighth goal on the year, setting up Bradford for the game-winner minutes later.

Three things to watch

1. The Terps can’t afford another slow start. Against Iowa and Rutgers, Maryland had a combined six first-quarter shots, with zero goals to show for it. The poor start didn’t hurt the Terps, but Maryland should prepare for the trend to be halted against a Northwestern offense that claimed an early 2-0 lead against them in their first matchup.

2. Can Maryland make up for its lack of Big Ten Tournament experience? No players on Maryland’s roster this season were in College Park when the Terps last made the Big Ten Tournament championship game in 2018.

3. NCAA Tournament implications. Maryland could gain a huge boost in NCAA Tournament seeding with an upset of Northwestern. Already having defeated No. 5 Rutgers and No. 7 Iowa during this year’s Big Ten Tournament run, Maryland could earn a top-four seed with a win Sunday. If the Terps are seeded in the top four, Maryland would serve as a campus site for the tournament’s opening rounds.