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Maryland field hockey in ‘survive and advance’ mode as Big Ten tournament continues

Seeing a Big Ten title as an uphill battle could push the Terps to postseason peaks.

maryland field hockey Gabe Fernandez/Testudo Times

There was a consistent message among Maryland field hockey players and coaches after Sunday’s Big Ten quarterfinal win against Michigan State. Whenever the context of the game was brought up, everyone just knew to mention the phrase “survive and advance.”

The phrase might cause a couple heads to turn. It’s often reserved for an underdog squad battling opponents above their weight class round-after-round, not storied programs that have found repeated success in the past.

But in some ways, the mentality of a team that’s been written off still applies to the Terps. Only since their recent winning streak have they been getting any recognition for what they’ve done this season, and everyone recognizes that one misstep takes ruins the ending of a late-season comeback to prominence.

“[Tournament games] are definitely more special because they’re survive and advance at this point,” said senior defender Carrie Hanks. “We want to have fun and enjoy the moment but we have to stay focused, especially against Penn State, or else that fun ends.”

The mentality in players like Hanks shows how well messages are communicated within the program. Head coach Missy Meharg has conditioned the players on the team to realize the reward for winning a round in the tournament is just advancing, implying the only prize won’t be achieved until the very end.

If you want more proof of this, look no further than Sunday’s game. Maryland only faced five total shots from Michigan State—and relied on Sarah Holliday for just two of them—but if you asked Meharg, you’d assume they just scraped by from an offensive assault.

“Our backline with Bodil, Hannah Bond, and Carrie all held firm to stop a lot of action on their end,” said Meharg. “I’m very proud of the way we came out to play today but it’s survive and advance now, and we did just that.”

That came with other tidbits of justified criticisms of how Maryland played. Meharg talked about the missed opportunities on offense, Hanks talked about how the team just slowly adapted to the Spartans’ play, and Brooke DeBerdine talked about improving their counter-attack defense. Not even 10 minutes had passed since the final horn and the team was already focused on improving in their next practice.

It’s a mindset the Terps can take into their weekend in East Lansing, especially against a squad like Penn State. The team won’t advance unless it ends up with the win, so everyone needs to do enough to make that happen. Seems simple enough.

Rankings and honors

A national-attention-grabbing winning streak like Maryland’s cannot be accomplished without standout performers, and the nine coaches in the Big Ten (lol) definitely took notice. Senior midfielder Lein Holsboer and junior forward Linnea Gonzales were named to the All-Big Ten first team, while senior defender Carrie Hanks earned All-Big Ten second team honors.

Both players that made the first team received their second straight All-Big Ten honors. Holsboer led the team in scoring with 32 points, off 11 goals and 10 assists, while Gonzales got 7 goals and 2 assists this season. Hanks ended her four-year starting career with a game-winning goal against Penn State on senior day.

To round it all off, Bodil Keus was awarded the conference’s Freshman of the Year award after starting all but one game this season, and coming in second on the team with 19 points (9 goals, 1 assist).

Maryland will enter the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament with a No. 7 ranking, just one spot below their preseason ranking. Not bad for a team that started off with the all-too-rare 1-2 record.

Up next

The Terps would have probably been best suited hitching a ride with the Spartans after sending them home early in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament. They will face Penn State in East Lansing, MI, at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 3.

No. 5 Penn State (15-3, 6-2 B1G)

No. 3 Seed in the B1G tourney.

Penn State decided to take out its frustrations on its next two opponents after losing to Maryland in double-overtime back in October. The Nittany Lions scored 11 goals, and Maryland transfer Moira Putsch, who joined Holsboer and Gonzales on the All-Big Ten first team, got a hat-trick in both games.

The loss was apparently so traumatizing to the squad that Penn State has been revamping their pregame warmups to reflect a more serious tone and start out stronger than it did against Iowa. Though the team beat the Hawkeyes 5-1, it had to be done in Terp-like fashion after the Nittany Lions only lead by one at the half.

The slow momentum gain is something that Maryland can latch onto. After being notoriously reliant on second-half scores early in the season, the Terps scored early and often in their final three matchups, including four first-half goals against No. 4 Virginia. On the other hand, two of the last three games for Penn State have seen only a one-goal deficit and lead in the first half.

But Maryland should still prepare for a battle in East Lansing. The Nittany Lions have been focusing on possession-based drills to limit the giveaways that allowed Maryland to keep them on their heels. They also have been getting high goal conversion rates, scoring at least once every four shots in each of their last three games. Maryland’s defense will have to be the heroes again if they want to advance to the finals.