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No. 2 Maryland field hockey Big Ten tournament preview: Penn State

The Terps are two wins away from another Big Ten tournament title.

Maryland field hockey Missy Meharg Sarah Sopher / Testudo Times

No. 2 Maryland field hockey comes into the Big Ten tournament as the No. 1 seed after finishing with a 16-2 (7-1 B1G) record and will face No. 4-seeded Penn State in the semifinals Friday at 4.p.m. The Nittany Lions have the benefit of playing on their home turf for this tourney.

Since the Terps were coming into this tournament as the No. 1 seed, they were unsure of who their first opponent would be because they automatically clinched a spot in the semifinals.

Leading up to Friday, head coach Missy Meharg broke her team up into two groups to scout both Michigan and Penn State and then exchanged information. However, for Meharg and the Terps, the opponent doesn’t really matter, as long as they play their hockey.

“I don’t care who we play,” Meharg said. “I still feel like there’s room to grow and I’m looking forward to seeing the team dynamic show up line-to-line and unit-to-unit. Whoever we have to play, we have to play.”

In addition to preparing for both of the teams this week, the energy and excitement has clearly building up for the players. After posting an impressive regular season record, the real games begin now and the Terps are ready.

“[Emotions] are very high, we are very excited,” senior defender Kelee Lepage said. “It’s just exciting. This time of the year is always super high energy and excitement.”

What happened last time

Penn State traveled to College Park early on in the season on Sept. 19, where the Terps came out on top in 3-1 victory.

It’s fitting for Maryland to open the Big Ten tournament against the Nittany Lions, as the Terps began conference play against them. In the first clash, both teams were scoreless for the first quarter, but then Maryland scored three unanswered goals through the next two.

Two of the goals came off penalty corners from junior defender Bodil Keus and redshirt sophomore forward Mayv Clune. The other goal came from senior midfielder Madison Maguire.

In the final quarter, the Terps’ defense began to give the Nittany Lions plenty of opportunities, but Penn State wasn’t able to fully capitalize. The Nittany Lions were awarded seven penalty corners in the final quarter alone, but was only able to score on one of them, resulting in a 3-1 loss.

What’s happened since

Maryland’s win over Penn State was just beginning its dominance in the Big Ten. The Terps went on a six-game winning streak, including four wins over conference opponents, until losing its lone Big Ten game against then-No. 9 Michigan.

When the Nittany Lions faced the Terps, they sat at 0-5. With a loss to Maryland and Cal, Penn State found itself winless through seven games.

After a rough start to the season, the Nittany Lions finished out the rest of the year on a 7-4 stretch, including impressive wins over Northwestern and Rutgers.

In the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament, Penn State jumped out to a 2-0 lead and were able to hold off the Michigan Wolverines for a 2-1 victory.

Three things to watch

1. Will the Terps stay disciplined on the defensive end? In the first matchup against Penn State, the Maryland defense was very strong through three quarters. Then in the final quarter, it allowed the Nittany Lions to pose a threat as a result of penalty corners. In the first three quarters, senior keeper Noelle Frost only had to make one save, but made six in the fourth because of the penalties.

2. Will a break in the schedule affect the Terps? Maryland’s last game against a Big Ten opponent was Oct. 25 when the Terps beat Michigan State 5-1. Since then, the Terps have beat American and held an alumnae exhibition game to keep fresh, but it will be interesting to see if this scheduling will have any effect on Maryland.

3. The Terps have another opportunity for revenge. The last time Maryland traveled to University Park, the Nittany Lions handed the Terps their lone loss in Big Ten play in 2018. Also, in 2017, these two teams met in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament, where Penn State scored a late game goal to bounce Maryland out of the tourney.