Maryland field hockey scored five goals on the best goalkeeper in the country to upset Big Ten champion Michigan on Friday and earn its spot in the national title game.
The full-field press worked wonders for the Terps yet again, as they kept the Wolverines in enough of a frantic state to go up 2-0 in the first half, and finish them off 4-1 in the second half.
It was a dream start for Maryland as right from the opening whistle. The team was able to snatch back possession from Michigan on the first back pass of the game. The early press flustered the Wolverines and forced them into a defensive mindset they certainly did not want to be in.
The press kept pushing Terps further forward until they crowded Michigan’s penalty circle. The number of Maryland bodies caused a bit of chaos in front of net and allowed Madison Maguire to deflect a shot from Kelee LePage to give the Terps a 1-0 lead after less than five minutes of game time. It was the first goal Michigan allowed in six games.
Whenever Maryland didn’t have the ball, it fought hard to get it back. The top-down pressure from the team frequently forced turnovers and prevented any Michigan attempt at trying to get into the penalty circle.
The pressure also forced mistakes on the defensive end for the Wolverines. The Terps earned their first penalty corner of the game with 11 minutes left in the half and they made the most of it. Bodil Keus fired a low, driven shot right right past Michigan keeper Sam Swenson to give the Terps a 2-0 lead.
Whether it was Maryland taking a step back, or Michigan remembering how good it could be, the Wolverines started to make their first big pushes of the game after the second goal. Their closest goal-scoring opportunity came from a counter attack that was quickly snuffed out by Sarah Holliday. Even with their best efforts, they weren’t able to get on the scoreboard and the teams took 2-0 to halftime.
Michigan started the second half with pressure similar to what Maryland gave them in the period before. But Missy Meharg’s squad showed their knowledge of a full-field press and was able to weave its way into the Wolverines’ penalty circle.
A long shot from Linnea Gonzales was deflected into a scramble between Maguire and Swenson. Maguire won the battle and scored her second goal of the game to give the Terps a 3-0 lead just 70 seconds into the second half.
Michigan once again used the goal as a boost for the team. The team fought back hard to make up for the possession it lost in the first half. Slowly, but surely, the Wolverines made their way into the Terps third of the field. The push forced a defensive lapse from Maryland, allowed a centering pass from Kayla Reed to miss the sticks of three Terps defenders and put Carly Bennett in a position to take a goal back for Michigan, 3-1.
But the Wolverines could not capitalize on their opening goal. The Terps used the restart to momentarily slow the game down, and let one another get in the positions they needed to make their next push. Once they saw Wolverines out of position, they pounced on the opportunity and made a tiki-taka-like push down the field. After attempted shots from a couple Maryland players, Linnea Gonzales swooped in to recover a rebound off of Swenson and bring back the three-goal lead, 4-1.
The situation became dire enough for Michigan it pulled Swenson with 12 minutes remaining in the game. Rather than sit back and absorb pressure, the Terps decided to return some of the offensive given to them. With seven minutes remaining, they started a counter attack that forced the Wolverines to give up a penalty corner. Bodil Keus once again made quick work of the opportunity and scored her second goal of the game to put the Terps up 5-1.
Even with the one-player advantage, Michigan could not bring enough pressure to put another goal back on the scoreboard and the final whistle sounded off with a 5-1 Maryland victory.
Maryland will play UConn on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET in Louisville.
Three Things to Know
- Maryland, not Michigan, looked like the veteran team. Every Maryland player handled themselves with such composure that every move, from counter-attacks to presses, seemed absolutely effortless. It was so easy to forget that one starting side had five freshman and the other had four graduate students with the way the Terps handled the Wolverines. Michigan had won 18 straight, and Maryland brought that to a decisive end.
- Forwards often toed the line with their fouls. Part of what made the early press so successful was that Maryland stopped Michigan from building any momentum whenever the Wolverines regained possession. One of the strategies that was employed was tight, and somewhat reckless, defense from those in the front like Linnea Gonzales, who would use light fouls to stop Michigan players from pushing too hard. The tone-setting moves might have been allowed by this game’s official, but there’s no guarantee it will on Sunday.
- Sarah Holliday stepped up when it mattered. Maryland’s game plan is no good if the team can’t even stop the limited opportunities its opponent gets. Whenever Michigan got as close as the top of the penalty circle, Holliday was there as a sweeper to knock the ball right out. Her diving saves amounted to added frustration from the Wolverines that showed with the wild shot attempts during the home stretch of the game.