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Princeton’s last-minute goal hands No. 5 Maryland field hockey upset loss, 3-2

The Terps lost for the second time in this season.

Fifth-ranked Maryland field hockey lost to Princeton, 3-2, on Thursday.
Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

The momentum was on No. 5 Maryland field hockey’s side as time wound down with the game tied at two, as Princeton was playing on its heels.

The Terps were outshooting Princeton in the second half, 7-1, before the Tigers drew their third penalty corner of the game with under a minute to play. Princeton, which had five fewer penalty corners than Maryland, inserted to freshman Merle Broex, who set up defender Ottilie Sykes for the game-winner from the top of the shooting circle with 34 seconds left.

“They took advantage of their set pieces,” Maryland head coach Missy Meharg said. “Our players would agree that we needed more attention to detail [defending] those penalty corners.”

For the first time in four games, No. 5 Maryland field hockey was unable to protect its home field, losing to unranked Princeton, 3-2, on Thursday.

The late-game dramatics seemed unlikely after the Tigers (2-3) started strong. Princeton joined rare company by scoring the first goal midway through the second quarter, making it just the second Maryland (6-2) opponent to strike first this season. A Terps foul inside Princeton’s shooting circle gave Sam Davidson a penalty stroke for the Tigers. The senior, who went 7-for-7 on penalty strokes last season, beat Maryland goalkeeper Paige Kieft for her first goal of the year.

“Jumping into tackles was a big problem in the first [quarter],” Meharg said of her defense. “Their first goal came off of a series of players flooding the ball.”

Just over two minutes later, Princeton struck again when Broex also scored her first goal of the season. The score put Maryland in its first multi-goal deficit since last season’s NCAA semifinal.

Down 2-0, Maryland found a reason for optimism before heading to the locker room. Less than a minute before halftime, freshman Maci Bradford dove toward the net for the Terps’ first goal and cut Princeton’s lead in half.

Maryland brought the pressure in the third quarter, outshooting Princeton, 5-0, and got another big contribution from Bradford. To start the period, the freshman picked up her own rebound and found the top-right corner for her first career multi-goal game. Bradford has scored four goals and added 12 assists this season.

While the Terps ramped up their attack out of the halftime break, a change at goalkeeper settled things down defensively. After Kieft and freshman Alyssa Klebasko spent the last four games alternating as the starters on a game-by-game basis, Klebasko relieved Kieft in the second half.

The freshman held her own against the Tigers’ offense over the game’s final thirty minutes, but was unable to stop Sykes on the game-winner.

Maryland will look to get back on track when it travels to Virginia on Monday.

“We played some of the best hockey we’ve played all year … and there’s a lot to take away from this,” Meharg said. “We’re going to be as positive as possible and take that down to Charlottesville to play an even better brand of hockey.”

Three things to know

1. A rare regulation result. With Sykes deciding the game with under a minute to play, Thursday’s game became the first of the last six Maryland-Princeton matchups to end in regulation.

“Princeton came with an intent,” Meharg added. “They’ve played three overtime games already and fallen shy in them, so it was a matter of them getting on the board”

2. Maryland’s defense had its worst showing. Princeton became the first opponent Maryland has faced this season to score three goals in a game.

3. Big-time first goals. Davidson, Berle and Sykes — all three of Princeton’s goal-scorers — netted their first goals of the season Thursday.