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Maryland field hockey starts its 2019 season with two home matchups

The Terps will face Richmond on Friday and New Hampshire on Sunday.

maryland field hockey Gabe Fernandez / Testudo Times

Maryland field hockey will begin its 2019 season this week, hosting Richmond on Friday and New Hampshire on Sunday. The team is poised once again to compete for a national championship with a lot of key returning players.

On Tuesday, three Terps, including senior midfielder Madison Maguire, junior defender Bodil Keus and Syracuse transfer Jen Bleakney, were awarded Big Ten Field Hockey Preseason Honors.

With two games at home this weekend, Maryland will have the opportunity to prove that it’s still one of the top teams in the nation, despite losing to No. 1 North Carolina in the 2018 national championship. The game will look a little different though, now with 15 minute quarters instead of two 35 minute halves.

“Maryland is going to play dominant in the first minute of each quarter, and that is a huge goal for us,” coach Missy Meharg said. “History doesn't create where we are today. We are a new team with four quarters [and] new players, and one of our big goals will be to dominate right off the bat.”

Richmond — Friday, 6 p.m.

In 2018, the Spiders finished the season 7-12 and lost in the Atlantic 10 semifinal round to the eventual conference tournament champion Saint Joseph’s.

The Spiders struggled to put the ball in the cage last year, scoring a total of 33 goals. The Terps, on the other hand, allowed a total of 33 goals in all of 2018, while managing to score 81 of their own.

Even though the Richmond offense struggled last year, its top three point scorers return for the 2019 season. Senior Elise Zwicklebauer, who finished with 17 points on six goals and five assists last year, will lead the charge. Richmond will also return Steffie Bongers and Addie Nash, who both finished with 15 points in their first year with the program.

One thing to keep an eye on for this matchup is the goalie situation for the Spiders. In 2018, Richmond had two goalies that logged playing time, but neither are still on the roster.

As a result, the Spiders have two options at goalkeeper, including freshman Erika Latta and junior team captain Frankie-Lynne Conklin. Conklin is the likely Week 1 starter after being named a team captain this year and appearing in four games as a freshman in 2017.

With an inexperienced keeper in the cage against Maryland on Friday, the Terps’ high-powered offense could cause some issues for the Spiders.

New Hampshire — Sunday, 11 a.m.

New Hampshire recorded a 6-12 record in 2018, and similarly to Richmond, the Wildcats struggled on the road, finishing with a 1-6 away record.

New Hampshire returns its top-three point scorers, sophomore Finn Caron, junior Bloem van den Brekel and senior Bailey Fanikos. Caron led the way for New Hampshire with 17 points on eight goals and one assist, van den Brekel was right behind her with 16 points on seven goals and two assists, and Fanikos totaled 10 points on five goals.

The Wildcats had two different goalies that made starts last season, but neither return for the 2019 year. While sophomore goalkeeper Rachel Simkevich appeared in two games last season, she doesn’t have any collegiate starts under her belt. In the two games played, Simkevich allowed two goals and recorded six saves. This could be another case of inexperience in the cage, which could hurt New Hampshire on Sunday.

Three things to watch

1. Where will Maryland’s goal scoring come from? With the Terps losing two of their top goal scorers, Linnea Gonzales and Nike Lorenz, new players will have to step up this season. Last year, Gonzales accounted for 33 points on 14 goals and five assists, while Lorenz racked up 32 points on 14 goals and four assists. However, Maryland returns Big Ten Freshman of the Year Bibi Donraadt, who led the team last year with 36 points on 15 goals and six assists.

Meharg also expects that Bleakney and Maguire will “blend very well” on the offensive attack. Bleakney competed in three seasons at Syracuse, recording 28 points through 11 goals and six assists, while Maguire scored seven goals and led the team in assists, with 12 last season. But as shown by past year, defenders can contribute as well.

“I know a lot of teams break up [in training] and defenders play defense and attackers play attack, but one thing we do at Maryland is that everyone does everything,” associate head coach Katie O’Donnell Bam said. “It’s important that your forwards are your first line of your defense and they’re able to do it really well and if the backs find themselves in the circle, they’re comfortable and can execute and put the ball in the cage. ... Everyone has the ability within them to score goals.”

2. Who will be in goal for the Terps? It doesn’t seem like Maryland is locked in on one goalkeeper over another. Meharg made it clear that senior Noelle Frost and sophomore Skye Joegriner will have opportunities to take the starting job.

Frost was in close competition for the starting job last season, but then-senior Sarah Holliday got the nod after the first few games. Frost still saw action in nine games though, playing a little over 341 minutes and saving 68.2 percent of the shots she faced. Joegriner hasn’t seen game action yet, but Meharg said she was impressed with her this summer.

3. Will Richmond and New Hampshire be able to keep up? Although it is a new year, comparing last year’s stats can be interesting as all three teams have a lot of key pieces returning. Both Richmond and New Hampshire averaged under two goals per game, 1.74 and 1.64 respectively, while the Terps averaged 3.24 goals. Not only should Maryland’s offense perform much better than their opponents, but the defense should also outperform. The Terps allowed 1.32 goals per game, while Richmond allowed 2.68 and New Hampshire gave up 2.39 per game.

“It’s important to show who we are and show what we’ve been working towards,” Bleakney said. “I think it’s more about proving it to ourselves, that we’ve been working hard and what we want to accomplish, we accomplish.”

One more aspect of the game where Maryland should shine is discipline. The Terps only gave opponents 93 penalty corners in all of 2018, while Richmond gave up 129 and New Hampshire allowed 110 penalty corners.