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Maryland field hockey preview: Ohio State & Northwestern (Part II)

The Terps return to Virginia Beach at .500 looking to make a statement in the Big Ten.

Maryland v American Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Maryland field hockey is back in Virginia Beach, Virginia, this weekend with two more Big Ten games on tap.

The Terps sit with a 1-1 record through two games thus far, including a triumph over Michigan State and a close loss to Northwestern. Both games took place at the Virginia Beach Sportsplex, the same field where Maryland will play this weekend.

“It’s literally like going to tournament weekend after tournament weekend,” said head coach Missy Meharg. “To be down at the beach and at the National Training Center where we all used to play U.S. level hockey, it was awesome. I mean, the environment was awesome, the setup, the umpiring, the video referral, it couldn’t have been better.”

Maryland will play Friday against Ohio State, a team it has 13 wins against and has never lost to in the history of the program. On Sunday, the Terps will get another crack at Northwestern, a team they were defeated by just a week before then. Friday’s matchup will be at 3 p.m., with Sunday’s at 10:30 a.m. Both games will air on BTN Plus.

Let’s take an in-depth look at the two teams Maryland will face this weekend.

Ohio State Buckeyes (0-1)

2019 record: 9-9 (3-6 Big Ten)

Head coach Jarred Martin is currently in his fourth season leading the Ohio State field hockey program. Martin’s first three seasons in scarlet and gray have been successful, leading the Buckeyes to 31 wins and winning records in each of those years. Prior to arriving in Columbus, Martin spent 10 years at Maryland’s former ACC rival Duke, including a four-year stint as associate head coach.

Ohio State has only played one game so far this season, a 2-1 overtime loss to Rutgers last Sunday in Virginia Beach. It was the Buckeyes’ first loss after regulation since Oct. 11, 2019, against Michigan. The Buckeyes were supposed to open their season last Saturday against the Wolverines, but the game was postponed.

Players to know

Mackenzie Allessie, sophomore midfielder, No. 6 — Allessie was the Buckeyes’ best player in 2019 as just a freshman. She led the team in goals (16), points (37) and shots (60). Allessie’s stellar freshman campaign was enough to earn First Team All-Big Ten and NFCHA Third Team All-American honors. The Mount Joy, Pennsylvania, native had four shots, including two on goal, playing 69 minutes in the loss against Rutgers.

Nikki Trzaska, senior forward, No. 2 — Trzaska is one of the most experienced players on the Buckeyes’ roster and the only senior starter from Sunday’s contest against Rutgers. Of the 57 games Ohio State has played since Trzaska’s arrival on campus, she has appeared in every single one. Trzaska had two shots on goal and the Buckeyes’ lone assist against the Scarlet Knights.

Aaliyah Hernandez, junior goalkeeper, No. 00 — The Virginia Beach product returns to her hometown for two more homecoming games this weekend. Despite the loss, Hernandez was steady in goal against Rutgers, making five saves. Her 1.56 career goals-against average ranks third in Ohio State program history. Hernandez currently has a 21-16 career record.

Strength

Goal scoring. Even though Ohio State lost its second-leading goal scorer in Esther Clotet Alsina and only scored one goal in its season opener, the Buckeyes know how to put the ball in the net. In the 2019 season, Ohio State led the Big Ten and was sixth in the entire nation with 3.06 goals per game. Martin returns 72.7% of his goal scoring from last season, a significant number for a team that can clearly score when needed.

Weakness

Returning experience. The aforementioned Trzaska was not only the lone senior in the Buckeyes’ starting lineup, but only one of two seniors who even saw playing time against Rutgers. Sammy Stone, the other senior who saw the field last Sunday, played only 18 of the 69 minutes and did not record a single stat. This is a very young Ohio State team, with five freshmen and sophomores in the starting lineup.

Northwestern Wildcats (2-0)

2019 record: 14-8 (5-3 Big Ten)

Head coach Tracey Fuchs is in her 12th season with the program. Including this year, Fuchs has compiled a very impressive 148-83 record, leading the Wildcats to two Big Ten titles and three NCAA Tournament appearances. She is credited for turning the program back into a national power and is on track for having a winning record in 11 of 12 seasons after the program had gone 13 years without one before her arrival.

Northwestern has beaten Michigan State and Maryland so far this season. Its rematch with the Terps is undoubtedly a game to look forward to as the teams put on a great showing just a week prior. The Wildcats will play Penn State this Friday before taking on Maryland.

Players to know

Peyton Halsey, sophomore midfielder, No. 6 — Halsey’s outstanding performance throughout the first weekend in Virginia Beach garnered Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors. The Reading, Pennsylvania, product had two goals in Northwestern’s victory over Michigan State and the game-winner over Maryland. Her three goals lead the Big Ten this season. As a freshman in 2019, Halsey had the most goals of any first-year player on the team.

Maddie Zimmer, freshman midfielder, No. 8 — Halsey was not the only player to earn honors from the conference last week, as Zimmer was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week. Against Michigan State on Feb. 26, Zimmer recorded a goal and had a game-high five shots. She also recorded one of the team’s 11 shots in the first game against Maryland.

Bente Baekers, redshirt sophomore forward, No. 3 — One of the best players in the country in 2019, Baekers has gotten off to a fantastic start in 2021, despite not recording a goal. The Big Ten’s leading goal-scorer, point-scorer and Freshman of the Year a season ago, Baekers is a force on the offensive end. The Netherlands product leads Northwestern with three assists and seven points this season.

Strength

Getting shots on goal. Out of the 27 shots that the Wildcats have taken this year, only seven of them have not ended up on goal. For comparison, Maryland has only had 16 of its 29 shots end up on goal so far. Through two matches, opposing goalies have had their work cut out for them against Northwestern.

Weakness

Slow starts. In both the Michigan State and Maryland matchups, Northwestern found itself trailing 1-0. While that has not proven to be an issue thus far, opposing teams will have the opportunity to capitalize early on in games if the Wildcats continue to start slow. At the end of the first quarter of the Maryland match, the Terps led Northwestern in penalty corners, 7-0.

Three things to watch

1. How will Maryland look on penalty corners? In its first two matchups, Maryland earned 18 penalty corners, good for an average of nine per game. However, the Terps were only able to capitalize with goals on two such plays.

“I was pleased to get the corners,” Meharg said. “We’re still a very big work in progress with our corners, mainly because, statistically, if you look at Bodil Keus, from last year, you know, she was our prominent penalty corner execution drag flicker for three years. If you look at the number of shots she took, the number of goals, a lot of time was contributed to that.”

Sophomore midfielder Emma DeBerdine also agreed that the penalty corners are a work in progress.

“I just think that we have so many different people that can play different positions,” DeBerdine said. “...The game experience with our last 18 corners in the game is really helpful for us to look at the film and just play them out as we would want them to go.”

2. Will Maryland continue its dominance over Ohio State? As mentioned earlier, Maryland is a whopping 13-0 all-time against Ohio State. The series dates back to Oct. 5, 2003, when Maryland was still a member of the ACC.

In those thirteen games, the Terps have outscored the Buckeyes, 54-12. The average margin of victory for Maryland has been 3.23 goals. In their last meeting on Oct. 20, 2019, the Terps beat the Buckeyes, 6-3.

3. Another chapter in the Maryland-Northwestern rivalry will be written. In the nine matches these two teams have played since Maryland joined the Big Ten, the Terps are 5-4 against the Wildcats. Every game but one has been decided by a single goal, including two double-overtime epics.

“I am thrilled that there finally is a rivalry,” Meharg said. “That’s really getting to be worth something like it used to feel in the [North] Carolina days with Maryland, you know. People have always kind of wanted it to be the Penn State thing, but I like the way Northwestern plays. They love hockey, and I have known the coach for years. I’m just pleased that Big Ten hockey is starting to really perform.”