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No. 4 Maryland field hockey vs No. 5 Northwestern preview

It’ll be a top-five matchup in Evanston, Illinois, between two of the best teams in the Big Ten.

Maryland field hockey 2019 Sarah Sopher / Testudo Times

After picking up wins against No. 10 Princeton and No. 18 Rutgers, Maryland field hockey’s schedule only gets tougher. Now the No. 4 Terps (9-1) turn their attention to another Big Ten road test against No. 5 Northwestern (10-2).

Maryland enters this game with a 2-0 record against Big Ten opponents, while Northwestern is 3-0. These two teams come into this game riding big win streaks. The Terps are currently on a six-game winning streak, while the Wildcats have won eight straight.

“It definitely helps build the confidence,” sophomore defender Riley Donnelly said. “But at the same time, [in] any game anything can happen.”

On Thursday, one of these streaks will be broken.

While Maryland has had great success so far in this season, coach Missy Meharg still believes that there is a lot to work on. Meharg explained that the first step in improving on the little things is doing it in practice.

“We haven’t really strung a lot of great practices together, but we’re starting to,” Meharg said. “There’s such a huge ceiling for us. We just keep finding a way, but we soon need to execute more on our penalty corners and execute more on our shot selection and score.”

No. 5 Northwestern — Thursday, 3:30 p.m.

After sitting at the No. 7 spot in the nation, the Wildcats have leapt into the top five after a 4-1 win against No. 24 Michigan State and a shootout victory against No. 9 Michigan. Northwestern’s two losses came early in the season against current No. 2 Duke and No. 3 UConn.

Despite its two losses, Northwestern has been dominant on both ends of the field. The Wildcats have outscored their opponents 38-17, while the Terps have a 34-10 ratio. The Wildcats stats have been similar to the Terps’, which should provide for a great Big Ten showdown.

While Northwestern averages more than three goals a game, its defense has been extremely impressive. The Wildcats allow an average 1.42 goals per game and they’ve also won four shutout games this season.

Last season, the two teams met in College Park, where Maryland came out on top. In the game, the Terps were the No. 2 team in the nation, while Northwestern was No. 17. The Wildcats scored first, but current sophomore Bibi Donraadt scored two unanswered goals for a 2-1 victory.

Players to know

Bente Baekers, redshirt freshman forward, No. 3. Not only does Baekers lead the Big Ten in goals, but she also leads the entire nation with 16. The forward from The Netherlands has been a force on the offensive end, taking 40 of the team’s 66 shots on goal. Baekers leads the team in total points with 33 (16 goals, 1 assist). The next highest point scorer on the team has just 14.

Florien Marcussen, junior goalkeeper, No. 25. In her first season as the team’s main goalie, Marcussen has done a great job. The junior has allowed 16 goals and saved 47 shots, posting a .746 save percentage.

Three things to watch

  1. Can Maryland contain Bente Baekers? The key to Maryland’s success will start with containing one of the best freshman in the NCAA. The Terps will have their hands full with Baekers as she poses a threat to score any time she touches the ball. After sitting out last year with an injury, Baekers has already posted two career hat-tricks in her first season.
  2. How will the Terps handle another tough road test? After picking up its first Big Ten road win against No. 18 Rutgers last week, Maryland travels to Evanston, Illinois for another tough opponent. This will be the second time Maryland will play in Evanston after going 1-1 in the B1G/ACC Cup. Maryland hasn’t lost a Big Ten road game since 2017, but the Wildcats possess a 5-1 record at home.
  3. Will it be a low scoring affair? In a matchup of two teams with outstanding offense and defense, it will be interesting to see which side of the field will prevail. Both teams have goalies with Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week awards under their belts and both teams have had a Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week. Additionally, both squads have top 15 offenses in terms of goals per game.