After 77 scoreless minutes in the Big Ten championship game between No. 3-seed Maryland field hockey and No. 1-seed Northwestern, the game looked poised to be decided in a shootout.
But Northwestern freshman Olivia Bent-Cole had other ideas, nailing a backhanded game-winner, as the Wildcats took the double-overtime thriller, 1-0.
“There’s no excuses, we lost to a great team.” Maryland head coach Missy Meharg said. “We have another tournament to look forward to, but right now, we just want to be with the team and spend some time digesting this.”
This was Northwestern’s second conference tournament title under head coach Tracey Fuchs. The Wildcats have beaten Maryland in each of the last three meetings between the two teams.
As was the case in each of Northwestern and Maryland’s semifinal games, Sunday’s championship match began with a scoreless first half. The Wildcats paced the attack in the first quarter, outshooting Maryland 5-1, but Klebasko stood tall. The freshman goalkeeper finished the game with nine saves — her second-highest total of the season — including three improbable stops in the second half. She had seven saves in regulation.
Bent-Cole’s goal was created large in part to Maryland’s defense being exhausted after Hannah Boss was shown a green card, which put the Terps a player down.
“You try to get them on the baseline and make them come out,” Meharg said. “... but at the same time, we lost [Boss] around the 25 yard-line, so it just is what it is.”
Bent-Cole’s ninth goal of the year was the lone blemish on a heroic performance for Alyssa Klebasko.
Northwestern played better throughout, including a 17-3 advantage in penalty corners drawn. The Wildcats became the first team to draw more than 12 corners against the Terps since Maryland joined the Big Ten in 2014.
Northwestern nearly scored on its fifth corner, when senior Lauren Wadas zipped a low shot, but Boss made an incredible defensive save to deflect the shot away from goal.
Northwestern drew seven more corners than Maryland in overtime, but numerous shot attempts were blocked by Josie Hollamon and Hope Rose.
“I was amazed at our corner defense,” Meharg said. “To defend 17 corners is a real positive.”
Along with its corner advantage, Northwestern outshot Maryland in the second half, 9-1.
Maryland will now await its seeding in this year’s NCAA Tournament, set to be announced Sunday at 10 p.m. The Terps were ranked No. 8 in last Tuesday’s poll.
Three Things to Know
1. Concerns on the injury front. Hope Rose was helped to Maryland’s bench after blocking a shot attempt off a penalty corner late in the second overtime period. The Terps’ star attacker did not return to the game, and Northwestern’s game-winner came just minutes later.
2. Maryland was dominated on penalty corners. Maryland drew just four total penalty corners to Northwestern’s 17. In their last two games, the Terps have combined for only one first-half corner.
3. Championship game struggles. With the loss, Maryland fell to 2-5 in conference tournament championships since joining the Big Ten in 2014.