Finally competing again this weekend was a huge sentiment shared by head coach Missy Meharg and the rest of the Maryland field hockey program.
With two neutral site games in sunny Virginia Beach, Virginia, Maryland started its shortened, only-conference schedule this past Friday.
The Terps played two matches, one against Michigan State and one against Northwestern, to commence their season.
While it appeared that Maryland may be heading towards a 2-0 record after two quarters of play of Sunday’s contest against Northwestern, the Terps ultimately settled for a 1-1 split.
Friday: Maryland defeats Michigan State, 2-0
Trying to get back to the level she once performed at, Kyler Greenwalt has overcome significant adversity and pain since she tore her ACL on Oct. 21, 2018.
With that said, it was a welcomed sight for Maryland to see her put in the team’s first goal of the season just over 17 minutes into Friday’s matchup with Michigan State. The goal ended up being the eventual game-winner in the Terps’ first game in 477 days.
Goalkeeper Noelle Frost, who recorded one save, notched her first shutout since Maryland’s 4-0 victory over Saint Joseph’s in an NCAA Tournament first-round matchup on November 15, 2019. This was Frost’s ninth overall shutout since assuming the starting keeper job in 2019.
“What a great feeling,” Meharg said. “To play good hockey, to score, to have a shutout. We had a couple corners against us and the communication with Noelle and the defense was awesome, so couldn’t be happier for the women and for our staff and for the journey we’ve been on.”
Perhaps the most significant moment of the game was when sophomore forward Sam Zwyna made a move towards the right side of the shooting circle and launched only her third career shot. The shot ended up in the back of the net for Zwyna’s first career goal, giving Maryland a 2-0 lead.
As a Virginia Beach native, Zwyna grew up playing field hockey on the very same field at the Virginia Beach Sportsplex. To say that first career goal was a special moment would be an understatement.
“That was the first field I ever played field hockey on,” Zwyna said. “I won a middle school city championship to high school city championships to club championships on there. Now, to be able to play a collegiate game and score my first goal is just awesome. To have my teammates there with me and cheering me on, it was amazing.”
It was a rewarding moment for Coach Meharg to watch Zwyna, who only appeared in eight games last season, rise to the occasion and score a goal in a Big Ten matchup.
Meharg said she was extremely happy for Zwyna because of all the hard work she put in, including changing some of her technical skills from the past.
“She took the game so seriously, and hitting is one of the areas that she really had a very, very immature hit before the fall,” Meharg said. “This year with COVID in the fall, all we did was analyze hitting, analyze power skills. So to score a goal using that technique was super rewarding, I would hope for her, and certainly the coaching staff.”
Sunday: Northwestern takes down Maryland, 2-1
Just 38 seconds into the second half of the contest, Northwestern forward/midfielder Mackenzie Keegan chipped a shot over Noelle Frost from the right side of the shooting circle.
A little over 10 minutes later, midfielder Peyton Halsey added another goal for the Wildcats, and Northwestern never looked back from there. Redshirt sophomore Bente Baekers assisted on both goals.
Maryland jumped out to a great start and seemed fired up to take on the Wildcats, earning seven penalty corners in the first quarter alone. However, the Terps were only able to gain three more penalty corners throughout the rest of the match and only capitalized on one chance in the first quarter, a goal by junior defender Riley Donnelly.
“Corners are about speed of execution and accuracy,” Meharg said. “We’re not good enough yet, and we need to be. Their cover players, their second runners, they were able to get touches on the ball and we just have to be speed in every set piece of that. We’ll be working very hard on that.”
The Terps seemed to dominate the first half before the tide suddenly turned after halftime. Senior midfielder Brooke DeBerdine concurred with her head coach.
“Like Missy pointed out before, we had a really good brand of hockey in the beginning with passing,” DeBerdine said. “That’s definitely [is] something we’re gonna just keep working on. We need to figure out how to connect with lines better...as well as finishing with corners.”
From the third quarter onward, Northwestern played a really methodical game of hockey. The Maryland defense, after being flawless for the first 90 minutes of the season, was peppered with more shots in the second half than they had seen previously.
Noelle Frost was still steady in net for the Terps, recording four saves, including a big one off a Northwestern penalty corner with just under four minutes remaining in regulation.
Frost’s Northwestern counterpart, freshman goaltender Annabel Skubisz, shined in her first collegiate start.
Riley Donnelly had a great scoring opportunity to get her second goal of the day in the second quarter to extend the Maryland lead to 2-0, but Skubisz had other plans. A brilliant kick save helped change the momentum in favor of the Wildcats, as it was probably Maryland’s best scoring chance of the day.
Maryland was also much less disciplined Sunday compared to Friday, being tabbed with its first four green cards of the season.
“All in all, I applaud Northwestern,” Meharg said. “They were very strong, very opportunistic, and found a way to come from behind and win.”
Three Things to Know
1. Riley Donnelly is off to a dominant start to the season. The Doylestown, Pennsylvania, native currently leads the Terps in basically every single major scoring category. With 10 shots (five on goal), four points, two assists and a goal, Donnelly dazzled in two games. There has been clear and tangible progress from her 2019 sophomore campaign where she started all 21 games.
“Riley’s play and goal-scoring on corners, she’s really an impactful player,” DeBerdine said. “But then also, just her control and her confidence with attacking forward has been really good for us. She’s making a lot happen, which was seen today.”
2. Maryland has never lost against Michigan State. In its nine-game series dating back to Sept. 27, 2015, the Terps are undefeated against the Spartans. Maryland has outscored Michigan State 36-7 over that span. The Terrapins’ average margin of victory across the series is 3.2 goals.
Friday’s matchup was the lone meeting between the two teams this season.
3. Northwestern-Maryland has become a legitimate rivalry. Since the Terps joined the Big Ten in 2014, they are 5-4 against the Wildcats. Aside from the first conference match the teams played in Nov. 2014, each of the eight meetings has been decided by one goal, including two double-overtime instant classics.
Officials have also kept the discipline tight each time these teams meet, including six green cards Sunday and two yellow cards in last year’s matchup.
Maryland and Northwestern meet again on the same field at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, March 7.