Coming off of back-to-back losses in the national championship, Maryland field hockey is looking to make 2019 the year they come out on top. In the 2018 national championship, the Terps fell to North Carolina in a 2-0 loss, ending Maryland’s season with a 22-3 record.
This season, the Terps will be without four players from last year’s starting lineup and also missing a few key bench players. Despite the departures, Maryland still has plenty of returning players who should help the Terps contend for a national championship.
The Terps open the season ranked as the No. 2 team in the nation behind the defending champions, No. 1 ranked North Carolina.
One of the biggest losses for the reigning Big Ten champions is 2018 NFHCA National Player of the Year Linnea Gonzales, who started in all 25 games and ranked second on the team with 33 points (14 goals, 5 assists) last season. Maryland also lost one of its key defenders, Nike Lorenz, who tallied 32 points (14 goals, 4 assists) last season, which ranked third on the team.
In addition to Gonzales, the Terps lost four other forwards in Julie Duncan, Olivia Reiter, Sabrina Rhodes and Melissa Wilken. Rhodes and Gonzales were the only two of the bunch that consistently started though. With a total of five forwards gone, it will be interesting to see how the offense shapes up and how much depth the team will have.
Maryland will also be without last season’s starting goalkeeper Sarah Holliday, who possessed an 18-3 record and only allowed 25 goals last year. During her four years with the program, Holliday has been a center piece for the Terps’ defense, recording a career 72.5 save percentage in 81 game appearances. Losing one of the nation’s top goalies will be tough for Maryland’s defensive chemistry but the Terps will have to adapt if they are going to return to the national championship.
One player to keep an eye on is sophomore forward Bibi Donraadt, who only started in 12 games but led the Terrapins in scoring with 36 points (15 goals, 6 assists). With the departure of Gonzales, Donraadt will log a ton of playing time and be a crucial piece of the Maryland offense.
In addition to Donraadt, Maryland returns eight of last year’s starters, including five players that played the most minutes — Hannah Bond, Brooke DeBerdine, Riley Donnelly, Kelee Lepage and reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and team captain Bodil Keus. With a bulk of their starting lineup returning, the Terps should be a contending team without a ton of growing pains.
“For myself, I’m just trying to start off on a clean sheet,” Keus said. “Try not to dwell. Of course it’s in the back of my mind, the last two years, but just doing the best we can and go through with the season.”
The Terps will also have a new starting goalkeeper this season. The starting job will be between senior Noelle Frost and sophomore Skye Joegriner. Frost was in competition with Holliday for the starting job last season, appearing in nine games while allowing just seven goals and recording 15 saves. On the flip side, head coach Missy Meharg said that Joeginner has evolved into a “top-level NCAA goalkeeper.”
According to Meharg, the goalie competition will come down to who “will fall into sync the quickest.” Last season, she took the first two weekends to decide a starter.
“Both will have an opportunity to compete,” Meharg said. “We’re not close to being in November, we’re not close to being in October, we’re not in September. So we’re going to take it one day at a time and see who performs the best.”
For the 2019 season, Maryland brings in nine new players, including seven freshmen and two transfers. Of the seven freshmen, the Terps add midfielders Belle Bressler, Emma DeBerdine, Nathalie Fiechter and Maddie Gaughan, forwards Megan Munley and Sam Zywna, along with freshman goalie Christina Calandra.
DeBerdine is the younger sister of current junior midfielder, Brooke DeBerdine, and Meharg has been excited with what she’s seen from her.
“She is just a fiery attacker that will lend an incredible amount of work,” Meharg said. “[It’s] almost a blessing in immaturity up front because her athleticism will be very challenging for opposing defenses.”
The Terps also gained transfers in senior forward Jen Bleakney from Syracuse University, who was also named as one of Maryland’s captains for this season, and sophomore midfielder Linda Cobano from the University of Hamburg in Germany.
“[With] Linnea [Gonzales] not here, Jen gives us that depth that we need up front,” Meharg said.
Bleakney played three seasons at Syracuse, totaling 28 points on 11 goals and six assists.
“I think we’re in a very positive place” Meharg said. “We’ve got eight starters actually returning from last year’s squad and 16 returners. So we feel very comfortable with our talent and our depth.”
After hosting two games this weekend against the Richmond Spiders and New Hampshire Wildcats, the Terps will travel to Evanston, Illinois, the following weekend for the B1G/ACC Cup. From there, Maryland will clash with No. 13 Boston College and No. 3 Duke.
The following weekend, the Terps will host the Terrapin Invitational where they’ll face No. 11 Virginia and James Madison.
After the invitational, Maryland’s schedule gets tougher as the Terps face six consecutive ranked opponents. The teams include No. 9 Penn State, No. 5 Princeton, No. 19 Rutgers, No. 15 Northwestern, No. 4 Connecticut and No. 8 Iowa.
Maryland’s Big Ten slate will be capped off with Indiana, an away game at No. 7 Michigan, No. 14 Ohio State and Michigan State before heading to Washington, D.C. to play American.