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Previewing the 2021 Maryland field hockey season

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Despite key losses, the Terps bring back a ton of top returning and incoming talent.

NCAA Division I Field Hockey Tournament - First Round

After not playing since November 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Maryland field hockey will make its long-awaited return to the field Friday against Michigan State. Missy Meharg, the all-time winningest coach of any sport in the history of Maryland Athletics, searches for her eighth national title in her 33rd season.

Meharg’s group went 17-4 last season, including 7-1 in conference play. That mark was good enough for Maryland to win its sixth Big Ten regular season championship since joining the league in 2014. The Terps, however, lost fourth-seeded Virginia, 1-0, in an NCAA Tournament quarterfinal matchup.

Despite losing some talented players, a combination of returning talent and newcomers should put the Terrapins right back at the top of the Big Ten and national picture.

“We have a wealth of experience and tournament experience,” Meharg said. “...and now the flavor and just that desire.”

Key players lost

While Maryland does return an abundance of talent, there is no doubt that it lost a number of high-caliber players from last season’s team.

The most significant offensive departure from the program is midfielder Madison Maguire. She led the Terps in all major categories in the 2019 season with 34 points, 12 goals and 10 assists. An NFHCA Second Team All-American, Maguire leaves Maryland with big shoes to fill entering the season. After graduating from Maryland with a degree in mechanical engineering, she went straight to the U.S. National Team.

Fellow senior Kelee Lepage also joined Maguire on the national team after graduating from Maryland. Lepage, a defender, ranked fifth on the team with 14 points in the 2019 season.

Linda Cobano was another significant loss for the program. The second-highest goal scorer for the Terps with nine, Cobano transferred from the University of Maryland after her sophomore season. Cobano is currently a student at the University of Hamburg in her native country of Germany, electing to stay closer to home amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Arguably as big of a loss, likely bigger, as Maguire is defender Bodil Keus. Keus, an NFHCA First Team All-American in 2018 and the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2018 and 2019, was quite simply dominant on the back end for Maryland.

The reasons as to why Keus left are unclear, but the Netherlands native did return to Europe and continued playing field hockey. Keus is playing as a member of the Royal Antwerp Hockey Club in Belgium, per her Instagram.

Other notable departures from the program include defender Hannah Bond, who earned NFCHA All-Region honors as a junior in 2019, and former co-captain in forward Jen Bleakney.

Despite the departures of these very talented players, Maryland has a wealth of returning talent waiting for the opportunity to shine.

Returning players

It would be easy to discount Maryland this season after learning about the losses the team suffered, however, a deeper dive proves differently.

“I was looking at the statistics and about 50% of our goals came from the team that’s still here,” Meharg said. “And we are incredibly dominant when it comes to representing the country at the under-21 level.”

One of the current players who does represent the country at that level is starting goalkeeper Noelle Frost. Returning for her fifth season with the program, Frost was a massive part of Maryland’s 2019 Big Ten championship team. The goalie started all 21 games while recording eight shutouts and a save percentage of 80.6%. Frost’s experience in net and winning ways are welcomed back greatly to this year’s team.

Two other women returning for their fifth years, midfielders Brooke DeBerdine and Kyler Greenwalt, will have a huge impact on this year’s team. DeBerdine was a member of the All-Mid Atlantic Region Team in 2019 and the NCAA All-Tournament Team in 2017. Greenwalt, who started nine games last season, is recovering from a torn ACL she suffered against Virginia just over 16 months ago to date.

“Kyler is one of the most resilient players on our team,” Frost said. “Right when she tore it, she did not step down whatsoever at all...I think her presence is just as good as it’s always been, if not better.”

Meharg said there was never a question of these three “super seniors” not returning to school to use their last season of eligibility.

Emma DeBerdine, the younger sister of Brooke, seems poised for a breakout season entering her sophomore year. As a freshman in 2019, the younger DeBerdine was the third leading point scorer on the team with 19. It seems to be only up from here for the NFCHA Third Team All-American. Both DeBerdine sisters are also members of the under-21 indoor national team.

Junior forward Bibi Donraadt also figures to be a key returning part of the Terrapin offense. The former Big Ten Freshman of the Year from The Netherlands played a crucial role in Maryland’s 2019 success. With 20 points, she ranked second on the entire team behind the aforementioned Maguire. Donraadt is poised for great success after an extraordinary first two seasons in a Terrapin uniform.

Junior defender Riley Donnelly is also another member of that U.S. Under-21 Indoor National Team. Starting in every game during her sophomore campaign, Donnelly is another weapon that should continue to contribute to the Terrapins’ defense. Sophomore midfielder Nathalie Fiechter is also someone who saw a ton of action in 2019 as a freshman and could be ready to explode onto the scene in her second season.

Other key returnees include redshirt junior forward Mayv Clune, sophomore midfielder Belle Bressler and junior midfielder Taylor Mason.

New additions

Maryland brings in a loaded freshman class along with a couple of impact transfers for this upcoming season.

Forward/midfielder Anna Castaldo is arguably the gem of this year’s freshman class for the Terps. A member of the U.S. National Team, Castaldo played six years of varsity field hockey at Maine Endwell Senior High School, resulting in two New York State Championships and First Team All-American honors in 2019.

“Anna is growing every day,” said Meharg. “Anna is a goal scorer and she loves to have the ball inside the circle.”

Anoushka Chiswell is another freshman forward who should be ready to contribute. Described as “feisty” and “absolutely dynamic” by her coach, Chiswell has former experience playing on the international stage for the New Zealand U18 squad in 2019 and 2020.

On the defensive side of the ball, two more freshmen are ready to make their impacts felt this season. Rayne Wright, from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, played four years at Liberty High School, earning Conference Player of the Year honors in 2019. Her other freshman counterpart, Logan Anderson, played four years at Shawnee High School in Medford Lakes, New Jersey, earning First Team All-County honors in three of those seasons. Anderson may miss some time with a fractured thumb.

The Terrapins also welcome two new transfers to the program. Margot Lawn, from Pasadena, Maryland, has the most recent playing experience out of anyone on the roster. Playing in nine games with the University of Louisville this past fall, Lawn registered four goals, the second-most for the Cardinals. Lawn was also high school teammates with Greenwalt.

The other incoming transfer is sophomore defender Maura Verleg from The Netherlands. A part of a decently-sized Dutch presence on this team, Verleg won the America East Rookie of the Year playing for New Hampshire in 2019.

There is no doubt about the talent and pedigree that these newcomers bring to Maryland, and it will be interesting to see which players step up this upcoming season.

Looking ahead

The Terrapins will play a 14-game schedule across 51 days, in pursuit of their third straight Big Ten title. With no preseason polls or expert predictions as of now, the season may be hard for outsiders to predict. For Maryland, greatness has been the gold standard.

The biggest challenge among all for Maryland could be facing the COVID-19 pandemic in a season, played at a different time of year than normal, like no other.

“We got to get tested every day,” said Brooke DeBerdine. “But honestly, it’s all worth it. I think we’re all just trying to stay present, just so that we can train and play which we’re all just looking forward to next weekend.”

There is no doubt that this team is not taking anything for granted and is very appreciative of the fact that they get to play field hockey this spring.

Maryland will open up with four games in Virginia Beach and two at Penn State before finally returning to the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex for its home opener on March 19 against Indiana. The Terps will open their season against Michigan State this Friday, March 26 at 3 p.m.