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Maryland field hockey 2023 season preview

The Terps look to make the Final Four for the third consecutive year.

The Terps are under the tutlelage of head coach Missy Meharg for the 36th season.
Mackenzie Miles/Maryland Terrapins

Last year represented another season of deep tournament play for Maryland field hockey under head coach Missy Meharg, who now enters her 36th season at the helm.

After starting the year 7-0, the Terps made it to the Final Four for the fourth time in the last six seasons, earning the program’s sixth Big Ten championship in the process. In 35 years at Maryland, Meharg has coached 21 teams to the Final Four.

With the program’s 17th national championship game appearance on the line, Maryland’s Hope Rose whacked a final shot that was blocked high over the net, ending the Terps’ season with a commendable 19-4 record.

Now, the Terps, replacing some key members of their midfield, will look to bring a ninth national championship to College Park.

Key losses

Last season, the Terps were lethal on the attack. Their 3.52 goals per game was the best mark in the Big Ten and second-highest in the country behind last year’s national champion, North Carolina.

A majority of that goal-scoring came from Maryland’s midfielders, a position Meharg will need to address following four key graduations. Nearly 60% of Maryland’s 81 goals in 2022 came from the quartet of Dannielle Van Rootselaar, Emma DeBerdine, Leah Crouse and Bibi Donraadt.

Van Rootselaar is probably Maryland’s greatest loss, with her 12 goals and 27 points leading to a unanimous All-Big Ten first-team selection.

DeBerdine, who captained last year’s team alongside Van Rootselaar and Donraadt, will also be heavily missed this season. An All-Big Ten first-team selection, DeBerdine tallied seven goals and seven assists while also recording a team-high shots on goal percentage of 77%.

Crouse and Donraadt each provided valuable contributions during Maryland’s run to the Final Four last year. Crouse was named to the All-Big Ten second team after notching 10 goals and 25 points while Donraadt, who scored a key shootout goal in Maryland’s 3-2 win over Syracuse in the NCAA quarterfinals, was second on the team with 12 assists and 32 points.

Notable returners

Two-time All-Big Ten second-team selection Hope Rose returns to Maryland after leading the attack with 14 goals and 36 points last season, marks that were good enough for third and fourth highest, respectively, in the Big Ten. Rose, the former Big Ten Freshman of the Year and member of the 2022-23 U.S. women’s national team, led the Terps in almost every statistical category last season despite only appearing in 18 games. Look for Rose to take an even bigger step forward as the team’s most potent returning attacker this season.

Paige Kieft returns as the Terps’ starting goalkeeper after splitting time with Christina Calandra last season. With Calandra, a Massachusetts native, transferring home to UMass-Lowell after three years at Maryland, there’s an easy path for Kieft to lay claim to the starting spot as a junior.

Kieft started 11 games last year while appearing in 15. She finished with 22 saves and a 1.99 goals against average, and had her first career shutout against then-No. 8 Michigan in a 1-0 overtime win last September.

Maura Verleg returns to anchor the defense this season as a newly-selected team captain. Verleg, a fifth-year senior who transferred to Maryland after her freshman season at New Hampshire, has started every game over her three seasons at Maryland.

Verleg is joined defensively by Rayne Wright, the other captain selected for the 2023 season. Wright, a senior, started 21 games last year while playing in all 23.

“They have been the core of our defensive unit for three seasons and resonate with the demands of the next four months together,” Meharg said in a release about Verleg and Wright being named captains.

Key additions

If Meharg wants to keep adding to her resume this season, the winningest coach in Maryland athletics history will need to do so with a relatively new roster. The Terps graduated four of their top five scorers from last season, a loss they will try to make up for by welcoming two graduate transfers and six freshmen into the program.

Midfielders Sammy Popper and Ashlyn Carr will both be given the opportunities necessary to make an immediate impact after transferring in.

Popper joins the Terps after being a two-time All-Ivy League selection at Princeton. On a 13-5 Princeton team that was consistently ranked as a top-10 program, Popper’s nine goals and 20 points were both the third most by a Tiger last season.

Carr arrives at Maryland by way of Delaware, where she was an All-CAA first-team selection in each of the last three seasons. Carr, the MVP of last year’s CAA Tournament, ranked second on Delaware with 14 assists and third with 22 points last year.

Freshman Alyssa Klebasko could also get valuable minutes in her first year as a Terp. The defender from Odenton, Md., starred last year at Garrison Forest High School and was recognized as the Baltimore Banner/VSN Defender of the Year while being one of four incoming freshmen to be named as 2022 High School National All-Americans by Max Field Hockey.

Freshman Maya Everett also arrives in College Park as part of this year’s recruiting class. The midfielder from Arnold, Md., led an undefeated Broadneck team to their first 4A state championship in two decades while being named the 2022 Maryland High Player of the Year by various outlets, including The Baltimore Sun and Capital Gazette.

Looking ahead

The start of the Maryland field hockey season brings with it lofty expectations, a standard that has been consistent with the eight-time national championship program. However, the last of those championship victories came way back in 2011, so the pressure slowly continues to grow on the Terps to find their way over the hump again.

As the Terps aim to exceed last year’s success, they will need to do so by taking care of business early in the season.

Maryland will open its season with a three-game West Coast road trip, during which it’ll play Stanford (Aug. 25, 3 p.m.), California (Aug. 27, 3 p.m.) and UC Davis (Aug. 28, 6 p.m.). Of those three teams, only California (10-9) finished last season with a winning record.

Expect Maryland to use the early-season road trip to its advantage by experimenting with new lineups before returning to College Park to host five straight home games, including matchups with Duke and Boston College in the Big Ten/ACC Cup.

The Big Ten projects to be the top field hockey conference in the nation once again, meaning the Terps will have plenty of opportunities to prove themselves against some of the nation’s best. The challenge of such a schedule is steep, but if Meharg’s squad is going to prove it’s capable of making another deep run, it’ll have to pass those tests.