Throughout the entirety of the season, Maryland field hockey has harped on the budding youth of its roster. In some cases, the inexperience became an obstacle—like against Michigan, when some of the players had never played in an overtime game in their careers, limiting coach Missy Meharg’s rotation options. But in most other instances, its been a source of inspiration going forward.
Kyler Greenwalt, for example, has three goals in her last four games, including two against No. 3 Virginia on Tuesday. The description of her first career goal against Ohio State combined the youthful excitement one might expect from someone relatively new to collegiate competitions, with the experience of a player who’s known field hockey all her life.
“I got the ball form Linnea [Gonzales] so I just shot it, and it went right above the goalie in the net and I went like ‘woo,’” she said on Friday. “I get pretty excited. But that outcome only happens with all the passing before. If we don’t have that good, fluid passing then I don’t think I’d have gotten that shot off.”
But its not just Greenwalt. Madison Maguire, Bodil Keus and Hannah Bond are just some of the other underclassmen to make waves for this team of budding talent. While the group had its struggles early, the hard work and practice has crescendoed into a team that has found its apex at a great time.
After Sunday’s game, Meharg said the team was playing its best hockey of the season over the span of its then-four-game winning streak. The proof was in the Terps’ ability to play their brand of hockey—and succeed doing it—against a Penn State squad that was supposed to be the superior side.
To take that same energy only 48 hours later and not only defeat, but utterly dominate, a top-5 squad away from home just shows what this team can do from the lessons they’ve learned this season. It certainly looks like the only thing that could stop the Terps anytime soon is themselves.
Rankings and honors
Even before the team’s big upset against Virginia, Maryland was rewarded for their two statement wins over ranked opponents this past weekend. Freshman defender Bodil Keus was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week on Monday, her second career weekly honor. Keus played a pivotal role in putting a halt to Ohio State’s offensive pushes, and was able to play every minute of the double-overtime game against Penn State.
The next day, the Terps moved up four spots in the NFHCA Coaches Poll to No. 12 in the country. Their wins against the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions did not result in any penalty rankings-wise to their opponents as Ohio State actually moved up to No. 24, and Penn State stayed No. 6.
The seniors rounded off the player recognitions on Wednesday when Carrie Hanks and Lein Holsboer were both selected to be a part of the Victory Sports Tours/NFHCA Division I Senior Game on Nov. 17, a couple days before the National Championship game.
Maryland will travel to New Jersey for their final matchup of the season against conference rival Rutgers.
Rutgers (9-6, 3-3 B1G)
2016 record: 9-9, 2-6 B1G
While Maryland has been on an upward trajectory since losing to Michigan, Rutgers has only gotten worse. After an impressive overtime victory against No. 12 Stanford and an expected win against Michigan State, the Scarlet Knights were upset by No. 25 Ohio State at home. They get to follow up the demoralizing loss with a trip to Happy Valley against No. 6 Penn State before facing a well-rested Maryland squad that is destroying any opponent in its path.
That’s not to say that Rutgers will be a pushover. The team currently has an impressive 4-1 home record and the team leader in points—Daphne Groothuis, who has 19 points off seven goals and six assists—is a freshman. Plus, the emotions of senior day can’t be ignored as a factor that might spur the Scarlet Knights to a surprise upset, something the Terps are quite familiar with.